I’ve been lucky enough to do a lot of traveling in my life, including visiting countries other than
the United States of America. As parents do, they were worried about their oldest son being so far away
because if anything happened what could they do. Big things have happened in the areas I’ve visited;
Venice flooded, an escalator collapsed in Rome, protests broke out in Hong Kong but I just seemed to be
lucky enough to be out of the area when those things did.
I have, however, had some slightly uncomfortable situations while traveling abroad. While in
Spain on the subway my family and I were the subjects of pointing and talking behind hands, there were
employees at places who were short and didn’t have patience with us. In Italy there were posters and spray painted messages that condemned tourism around the airport and public transportation sites. While I was in South Korea it was clear we were met with skepticism and absolutely being talked about as we totally stuck out. I’ve been places where I didn’t belong and have been reminded of it and it was a slightly uncomfortable situation that provided some interesting perspective.
However, never in any of those situations did I really feel unsafe. My guard was up a bit more
because I was in a foreign country but I didn’t really give a second thought to my well being. I’ve been a
stranger in several countries but the truth is I still went about my plans and enjoyed my vacation. This
weekend has made it clear to the nation and the world that there Americans, in America, that can’t say the same. I feel like I have gained a little bit of perspective of what it feels like but the truth is I’ll never know.
Growing up in the lower middle class I was never worried about where my next meal would
come from, I knew I’d have a roof over my head and my parents always provided. Even during the more
financially thin times in our lives my siblings’ and my life was never uncomfortable. I didn’t have to
worry about safety walking to school or going out or in every day encounters. Even in my run ins with
police there wasn’t a second thought about anything, even if it felt like the cop was short or irritated for
whatever reason. I will never be able to grasp what the African American experience is like.
This is where I think there’s a major shortcoming with a lot of people. When something happens
you try to understand and work through it, try to use your own experiences to fill in the gaps to figure out the steps that got to the conclusion. But the truth is it’s not information you can grasp and it’s short sighted to try and walk that path to the end result. As a white male there are things in my life I will never deal with that any African American will and to try and say I can is an ignorant level of entitlement.
What I can do is empathize, listen, be supportive and try to understand what is happening so that
change can change. This is where things start to go off the rails. If you say ‘Black Lives Matter’ then you’ll
inevitably be met with ‘All Lives Matter’ or ‘Blue Lives Matter.’ If there’s a post about African Americans
being killed by cops then the retort will be ‘What about this white person killed by a cop? What about
gangs? What about black on black crime?’ The saying is two wrongs don’t make a right, both are bad and
there’s no problem solving or solution when it’s a measuring of both bad things. Those things are bad and no one would disagree, but deflecting one bad thing with another doesn’t solve either.
Too often it seems people want to boil things down in to clear cut, simple answers but that’s
rarely the case with anything in life. Just because you support the protest doesn’t mean you’re anti-cop.
There are bad people in all walks of life. If one bad apple for cops doesn’t spoil the bunch then the same
would be true for the protesters. Cops have a difficult job, they risk their lives to protect others and serve
a greater calling in their profession. However, that also means they take on a greater responsibility. If
there’s a bad one it doesn’t condemn them but it’s also on them to out the bad ones, as it is for all people in all walks of life. If there is a bad one that does something wrong and they are absorbed by the
brotherhood or group mentality then they’re being covered up for and that sows seeds of mistrust.
If you got food poisoning from a restaurant odds are you won’t try it again and you have that
choice. However, the stakes are raised in the matter of officers, protection and situations that can be life in death. If you’ve seen that fail multiple times you’re of course going to be weary and it’s not likely to go
away, that’s a matter of self-preservation anyone can understand.
A quick Google search shows African Americans have a higher chance to be shot, higher chance
to be killed while dealing police. Statistics show they are more likely to receive harsher punishments for
jail when compared to other race counterparts. After undeniable video recordings showed officer Derek
Chauvin killed George Floyd it took four days for him to be charged. Those things all make it clear to me
the African American community has a reason to have their trust shaken in the system. Don’t get it
twisted, this does not mean there aren’t African Americans who are guilty and who commit crimes, nor
does it mean all cops are dangerous.
Certain numbers will be touted to say it isn’t a race issue and there’s a post going around social
media that boils down to “I see a corrupt cop.” Fine, you don’t see the race issue but why does that mean
you’re against the protest? It’s police brutality and a needless death, both want to see the same solution.
It’s so frustrating to see an argument twisted to muddy the waters and get away from the solutions. A
majority of Americans don’t want guns taken away they just want commonplace laws so bad guys don’t
have guns, no matter what race a criminal should serve their time and bad cops should be punished to the full extent to the law when things that happen to George Floyd happen. Yet it seems a meme or catchy phrase turns in to a simple argument into ‘They’re coming for your guns. All police are bad.’ when that isn’t the truth.
It’s the same thing with the riots. If you ask anyone they would tell you they don’t support rioting,
destruction or harm coming to anyone while these protests are going on yet they are a launching pad to
dismiss the whole thing. Yes, there are absolutely people taking advantage to commit crimes and should
be punished but taking them in a vacuum is ignorant to what is happening. These marches, this pain and
these demands to be heard didn’t come out of no where. It is absolutely reasonable to understand the
message that is clamoring to be heard and to not support the destruction of property and harm coming to innocent people.
Just a few weeks ago in several states protesters marched in to government buildings with body
armor and guns because they didn’t want the stay at home orders to continue. They went without incident, despite what I feel was intimidation, but they have their first amendment rights to voice their opinion.
I know the joke of people clamoring to get their haircuts has stuck when it’s really more serious,
such as getting the economy going, getting their jobs back or even doubts in COVID-19. With almost 40
million Americans now unemployed that is absolutely a serious situation and a tough time for a lot of
homes and a lot of sympathy and empathy should be had for them. To me, a loss of innocent life is right
up there with so many Americans losing their jobs and I’d hope the first wave of protesters would be
understanding about this new wave of protests.
Therein lies a big issue, to me, for America as a whole. I find Americans have a lot of selfish
tendencies, that a problem that doesn’t apply to them may not be the most pressing or most important. A good example that I’ve seen time and time again is just how many people have taken out their frustrations on innocent workers. Too often I have heard stories of people close to me who have been yelled at for working somewhere that has policies they have no control over. The cashiers didn’t decide on the mask policy and being a jerk about it is such a high level of entitlement. Fighting over staying in and businesses being closed is one thing, but losing your temper over being asked to wear what boils down to a pair of underwear or shirt is the epitome of first world problems.
That hits close to home for me being a Millennial because oh so often I’ve had to hear about how
sensitive my generation is. While I completely disagree, at best that dumb criticism is the pot calling the
kettle black. I’m tired of seeing the memes of what 18-year-olds did in World War Two while Millennials
apparently just whine. This is not me saying those kids didn’t have guts that I don’t have and didn’t pay the ultimate price for the betterment of their country, it’s because those people sharing it turn around and whine because they have to wear a face mask. Who really is the one who needs safe place? And nothing is solved by picking a needless fight but I feel it makes the greater point that there is a selfishness problem.
How many people protesting were the same ones spouting ‘If you don’t like it here then move!’
because pot…meet kettle. You can’t shout you have First Amendment rights and then be upset when
someone else exercises theirs because you disagree with it. I’m sure there is no one that isn’t guilty of
being hypocritical but maybe just before condemning someone else for a belief boil it down the base
argument and see if that’s the same right you think is important.
And that brings us to the political discussion. Just like everything else discussed there is no side
that is completely innocent, but what I’ve seen is the lines get drawn deeper and deeper. No, I’m not going to argue for a right side here because the truth is if you pick one side and never consider anything else you are doing yourself and the country an absolute disservice. No side, no person is right all the time. If you don’t listen to other arguments then you will fail to evolve.
The last time I was in Chicago my Uber driver was from the Middle East and he said something
that will stick with me forever. “If everyone has the same ideas and beliefs then society will cease to
evolve and improve.” No one has to agree or even like everything that comes from a side that’s ‘opposite’
of you, but if you lock yourself in to one set of information you are burying yourself under a rock.
One of the most important truths anyone can admit to themselves is “I don’t know.” There’s
nothing wrong with not knowing because that’s the first step to realizing you need to find out and learn more. You were given two ears, two eyes and one mouth and that means you should be taking in four times what you’re putting out.