“I’m tired, boss. Tired of people being ugly to each other. I’m tired of all the pain I feel and hear in the world everyday. There’s too much of it. It’s like pieces of glass in my head all the time.” - John Coffey, “The Green Mile”
I’m tired too.
I’m tired of our twin systems of justice, separate and unequal, where one person’s skin color subjects him or her to extra scrutiny, or even harassment, while another person can walk around flaunting his privilege, practically daring law enforcement to challenge his Second Amendment right to make others wonder whether they need to run from the latest massacre.
Despite the avalanche of videos showing unarmed black men gunned down by police officers, some insist there’s no pattern to be seen, no problem to address. Open your eyes. This is not mere coincidence or a temporary thing. Racism existed long before we all carried video cameras around in our pockets.
Actor Will Smith, years ago, said, “Racism isn’t getting worse; it’s getting filmed.”
I’m tired of having this conversation because it’s stupid that in the year 2020, judging people based on the color of their skin color is still a thing and a ridiculous number of people remain unable to see black people as members of the same species.
It’s tragic that any group of people can’t feel completely safe walking down the street or have confidence that their own government will uphold their rights.
A white woman in a dog park in Central Park in New York City felt so entitled to do whatever she wanted that she was brazen enough to get captured on video threatening to use the system against a black man after he asked her to put her dog on a leash. When she angrily demanded that Christian Cooper turn off his phone and stop filming their encounter, she said, “I’m going to tell [the police] there’s an African American man threatening my life.”
The backlash against the woman online was so intense that even the person she tried to intimidate by threatening to call law enforcement shared a message for folks to ease up on her. Turning the other cheek is always admirable, and he is to be applauded for understanding that two wrongs do not make a right.
I’m tired of other videos showing white people calling the police on black people trying to enjoy a community swimming pool.
I’m tired of my fellow Americans touting how patriotic they are while actively working against the American experiment of people of different backgrounds united by a creed rather than ethnicity.
The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence starts as follows: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
These words ring hollow when the devastating impacts of racism in Black communities have been made so painfully clear — from racial disparities in COVID-19 outcomes to harassment of essential workers on the front lines.
Of course, those words, as wise and just as they sound, were written during a time when many members of Congress, including the writer of those words, Thomas Jefferson, owned slaves.
We operate museums in this state to acknowledge our troubled past. Overt racism is easy to condemn, yet systemic racism continues to exist while we pretend not to notice or feel incapable of doing anything meaningful about it.
This week’s death of a black man named George Floyd led to widespread protests after video of the incident appeared to clearly showed him pinned on the ground, unarmed and in handcuffs. A white police officer’s knee pressed down on his neck, leaving Floyd gasping for air and begging for his life for several minutes.
Horrific. Whatever crime he was being arrested for, he didn’t deserve a death sentence.
This video came on the heels of footage showing a black man named Ahmaud Arbery being fatally shot by a white former police officer and his son back in February while jogging down the street in Savannah, Ga. It took three different prosecutors just to find one that would ask a grand jury to bring charges against the men, rightfully sparking condemnation across the country.
I’m tired of people racing to their corner, instantly defensive, instantly sure their tribe is in the right without taking one solitary second to question things happening around them. Even now, some of my neighbors are thinking, “He’s siding with the protestors?!”
Obviously, the explosion of violence this week in Minneapolis and Louisville, Ky., is completely unacceptable. We can’t have police stations set ablaze and stores looted, but we must also stop marginalizing an entire group of people.
Can you imagine the amount of pent-up frustration it takes to conclude that the only way you’ll be heard is to burn down your own city? When attempts to peacefully protest incite mockery or get ignored, this is what happens.
It’s hard to know who did what in such a chaotic situation, but I’ve heard that peaceful protesters had their moment seized by opportunistic anarchists. Which completely overshadowed their point, robbed their moral high ground and gave some people license to dismiss them as mere thugs.
Minnesota State Police did not do themselves any favors when they arrested black CNN producer and photojournalist (who identified himself as such) Omar Jimenez while telling white CNN reporter Josh Campbell that he was “permitted to be in the area.”
That doesn’t rise to the level of Bull Connor turning fire hoses and police attack dogs against civil rights activists in 1963, but it was still cringe-worthy TV.
These moments of temporary insanity tend to serve as catalysts for major social and legal change. They’re supposed to feel unsettling, sometimes we have to have our cage rattled to wake up.
The angry crowd needs to give prosecutors a little time to make sure they have an open-and-shut-case against the officers if what’s shown on the video of the incident with Mr. Floyd is actually reflective of what happened. Mob rule is never better than cautious study of facts to make sure justice happens.
I do believe Minneapolis officials have gotten the message. It cannot be ignored.
I’m tired of fear-mongering politicians dividing Americans along whatever fault lines they can find and demonizing segments of our society to stir up old resentments and prejudices. It’s a useful distraction when you’re desperate to change the topic.
The current occupant of the White House, for example, decided to threaten a Kent State-style massacre on the same week he retweeted a message about the only good Democrats being dead ones. The tragic part is that no one was even shocked or surprised anymore.
In this racially charged environment, what sort of signal does it send when there are barely any efforts made to conceal political favoritism, when cronies who’ve been convicted of or admitted to serious crimes get their prosecutions dropped or sent home from federal prison without meeting the guidelines? I’m very tired of good people not caring or feeling resigned that this just being the way things are.
I’m tired of seeing good, lawful and compassionate police officers, my friends, having their profession dragged through the mud by bullies with badges.
We should respect and admire the men and women who risks their lives to protect us daily and do their best to enforce the law equally, without fear or favor.
I’m tired of people resisting accountability and transparency. The only people who angrily resist being fact-checked or being required to wear body cameras while on police patrol are those who have a vested interest in concealing the truth.
Come on, folks. We are better than this. Let’s face reality and act like we have some sense already.
— Steven Stiefel is a staff writer at the Times-Journal. His column appears in Saturday editions. Email: email@example.com.