The Country on Fire

The country is on fire. Protestors have been gathering for three days now, just one week after George Floyd died while a police officer kept his knee on his neck until he was asphyxiated. George had used a counterfeit twenty dollar bill at a store.

A 17-year-old girl filmed the agonizing ten minutes it took for him to die. The video has gone viral. George Floyd was an unarmed black man. His killer was a white police officer with a string of complaints filed against him.

Derek Chauvin has been arrested and charged with third degree murder and manslaughter. The three other participating officers have not been charged.

It took four days until violence broke out here, first in San Jose, now all over the Bay Area. Last night it came to a suburb just ten miles north of my town, looters breaking out store windows and taking what they could carry. Some drove, some came on the public transit system called BART.  A Target store is directly across the street from the BART parking lot. It was one of the first stores to sustain damage.

This morning, comments are flying on Facebook. Yes, looting is wrong. Yes, vandalism is wrong. But one comment by someone in my Baby Boomer age group really showed me how dismissive our generation can be regarding incidents such as George Floyd’s death.

And I quote:  “This is the dark side of the entitlement generation. If you don’t have what you feel you should be entitled to, steal it.”

Do you think he might be missing the point of this looting? Because it sure seems to me that he is.

Protestors marched in New Zealand this weekend against American police brutality. They get it.

Mayors in American cities took a knee alongside the protestors this weekend. They get it.

Police officers took a knee this weekend alongside protestors. They get it.

The Baby Boomers are now in their 60’s and 70’s and 80’s. Twenty years from now we will be dead or on our way to death. We are mostly white, and when we are gone, other ethnic minorities will fill in. Hispanics will take over as the majority of American population by 2050. If you don’t believe me, check it out at the U.S. Census office. They’ve been predicting this for over two decades.

In the meantime, we have angry disenfranchised segments of the population, sick and tired of watching yet another unarmed black man or woman be stopped, detained, and killed at the hands of police officers.

Black families have to have the talk with their children so they will know what to do in the event of an encounter with police.  The Hate You Give is a telling movie, based on a book by Angie Thomas, that shows a father giving his children the talk.

White people don’t have to tell their children how to interact with police officers. White people aren’t stopped as often as black people are. White people are not treated as roughly as black people are. White people are not shot when reaching for their wallet or registration as often as black people are.

Football player Colin Kaepernick protested the deaths of unarmed blacks by taking a knee during the National Anthem before quarterbacking the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL. Our president condemned it, calling it dishonoring veterans and the American flag.

Our president has yet to come forth and address the nation regarding George Floyd’s death. Instead, he tweets threatening messages about shooting those who are looting.

It’s no wonder the young people of this country are frustrated. And protesting, vandalizing, looting. Is it wrong? Of course it is. But I get it, even as an old white woman.

Trevor Noah, a South African who wrote Born a Crime, did a great talk on The Dailey Show about why this is happening. Why these disenfranchised groups of young people are reacting this way. They don’t like the status quo. They want the status quo to change. This is the only way they know how to do it.

We were these same kids in the 1960’s.   Here we are, fifty years later, watching it again.

I am asking you to put yourselves in the shoes of a teenaged black person, or a twenty-something Hispanic person, or a thirty-something person of color who has been stopped by the police and has feared for his or her life.

Think about it.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Rioting is the language of the unheard.”



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