One Small Voice

I would like to add my small voice to the din surrounding the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis policeman. As a resident of Minnesota I am especially embarrassed by the actions of one of those pledged to serve and protect in what I regard as our best and largest city. It is beyond reckoning. But it happened. And it happens.

As one who was raised in Baltimore, Maryland throughout my adolescent years, I saw some of the blatant racism that pervades the South. Now for those who don’t regard Maryland as a Southern state because it remained neutral during the Civil War, I would simply point out that the state is below the Mason-Dixon line and is in some ways fiercely Southern. Perhaps it’s precisely because it did remain neutral during the Civil War. Now many in that state seem to be out to prove that they, too, are Southern rednecks.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I do not mean to tar all Southerners with the same brush.(And I certainly don’t mean to imply that racism is peculiar to the South. The recent events in Minneapolis prove otherwise.)  Many Southeners are fine people who are just as upset by the murder of Floyd as am I. But there are those in the South who wear their bigotry proudly on their sleeves — as there are Northerners as well.

I was a student in high school in Baltimore in 1954 when the Supreme Court decided that schools should not be segregated and recall vividly making my way through angry crowds at the end of the school day in order to get the bus back home.

In addition, one of my black classmates in college attended a Catholic Church in Annapolis, Maryland during her first year in college. At the end of the service the priest took her aside and told her that there was another Catholic church on the other side of town “for you folks.” I was astonished and deeply embarrassed on her behalf, but not altogether surprised. I had worked throughout my high school years in a grocery store in Baltimore with two black delivery men who often told me of their anger and pain and I listened in stunned silence. What does one say? I recall one day when one of them looked at me and said “I can take most of the hatred, but when I take my family out for a drive on a Sunday it pains me to see the signs that read ‘No Colored.’ What do I tell my kids?” I had never even noticed the signs before he mentioned it. As I said, Maryland could be as fiercely Southern as Mississippi.

The George Floyd murder has the world in a buzz and one only hopes it isn’t the usual outrage that follows such an event and goes nowhere — like the outrage that followed the shooting in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. We can explain the carnage as an expression of bottled up rage and frustration that has followed this event, but surely we cannot justify it — just as we can explain Hitler’s hatred of the Jews while we can never justify it. Let’s hope the outrage in this case that has expressed itself in the trashing of private property results in positive steps taken to make sure that this sort of thing never happens again. The problem with the carnage, of course, is that many will focus on that and forget what it stems from.

However, it does seem as though the graphic pictures of the policeman with his knee on the throat of the black man handcuffed and pinned to the ground by two other policemen takes the fact of racism in this country to another level: that it makes us realize that the determination of football players such as Colin Kaepernick to protest a few years ago were not out of order, but  a timely reminder that there is hatred and bigotry in this country and that the black population have been the brunt of much of it for many, many years.

What is one to do? That is the burning question of the day and it is heartening to see people around the country talking about steps that can be taken to thwart these sorts of events and help make the world safer for the black population in this country. Black Lives Do Matter. Indeed. What is especially heartening is to see the growing numbers of white folks who are joining with their black brothers and sisters to help see that at least some of the deep-seated racism in the country is brought into the air and dissipated. One can only hope.

12 thoughts on “One Small Voice

  1. Very well said, dear Hugh! Thank you for being the voice of reason, as always. Yes, I think it’s just possible that this time the outrage is widespread enough that some positive change may be in the cards. I’d feel a whole lot more positive if we had different people in positions of leadership, people who had at least a shred of human decency. But, perhaps even they will not be able to stop this avalanche. At least, I hope.

  2. “The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimist fears this is true.” – James Branch Cabell

  3. Hugh, good post. Racism knows no boundaries. It was and is just more apparent in the south. Cedric Maxwell of the Boston Celtics, who went to UNCC and was raised in North Carolina, said it well. Racism exists here in Boston, we just hide it better. We must shine spotlights on racism and hatred wherever and whenever we can.

    I look at what Colin Kaepernick did. It was a respectful protest to call attention to these very matters. And, the racist president went out of his way to crush Kaepernick and use it politically. The meaning of the flag and anthem was lost on too many, as he had every right to do what he did. Yet, he still cannot get a job as a result of his being ostracized.

    The diversity of the many peaceful protests is amazing. Two days ago there were 2,000 + walkers in Charlotte of all colors. The few bad apples that come out more at night with violence are causing damage to the message, punishing the wrong people and, sadly, causing an overreaction by some police. Not all of the nighttime protestors are doing this, but it seems to draw out more of those causing havoc.

    Take care and be safe. Keith

    • The sad thing about the carnage is that folks will focus on that and ignore the causes of the frustration and rage that was its source — ignoring the rent-a-mob types who just want to burn and destroy, of course.

      • That is what Trump is counting on. What he is not counting is General James Mattis’ truthful comments, which hopefully will be a tipping point.

  4. Like cleaning out my workshop of thirty or more years of projects’ residuals, and clutter of lost provenance, I have been flaying open my own assumptions and inertia for a “dump run”. I thought I had grown away from what had been given me as a behavioral road map for my life, and as I study those bits, I find them unworkable, indeed shameful. I had been overlooking them, not “needing” them for my path, and now see them as sharp stones awaiting my unguarded step. For me now, I need to sweep ahead and make my passage kinder for myself and those walking beside me. Thank you for your good soul you post to me. I love you.

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