I Don’t Know What to Think

Be advised there is some strong language and there are some gruesome images/videos below…

The last few weeks and the last few months has seen America and the World, respectively, exposed. The deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd have been intense reminders that prejudice and inequality can have lethal consequences when left unchecked. The Coronavirus has shown the world the fragility of human life on this planet and just how interconnected the Global Economy is. The confluence of these circumstances has generated some of the strangest times I’ve seen in my lifetime and I just don’t know what to make of it all. What do I do other than continuing to live my life and trying to add something of value to the lives of others… which seems inadequate right now…

I am an African American Male. I am proud to be an American. I am grateful for the enslaved ancestors that endured what they did so that I can have the privilege to live in this country. In spite of all of it’s flaws, I still wouldn’t want to live anywhere but here in the USA. I am also a veteran of the US Army and I served in Combat in Afghanistan in 2010-11. I signed up to serve during a time of war. To watch Black People die in the hands of Law Enforcement over the last decade has been shocking to say the least. However, personally, what truly pours salt in the wound is the momentary anxiety I feel from time to time when I see White Police Officers. I hate admitting it but there is a little voice in my head that says, “Am I going to die today because I’m a Black Man?” When I have these very rare moments, another voice comes right behind it, “I fucking served this country in combat and I am walking around scared of being killed by Police because of my skin color!”

It feels like a slap in the face.

Recently, a Black Federal Officer (Dave Patrick Underwood) was shot and killed while securing a federal building in Oakland, CA. I can recall similar incidents occurring several years ago as protests against police brutality turned violent. Police Officers being targeted for wearing a uniform and choosing to take on one of the most difficult, stressful, and understaffed jobs in our society… because a few of them make terrible decisions while on duty. It reminds me of the way Vietnam Veterans were treated in the 60’s and 70’s.

Then there’s our President doing things like this:

What was this about?!

I’m not a hater of President Trump. However, I wish we had someone else in office right now. Even if only to speak with a greater measure of empathy for what everyday people are experiencing. I don’t know the man and I don’t want to be disrespectful towards him but he seems more concerned with his image rather than being a leader. “We’re the greatest country in the world and we’re coming back strong!” In the middle of people being killed by police, police being killed because they are police, and cities being vandalized and destroyed… He stands in front of a church with a Bible and lines up some of his staff… this is utterly ridiculous. What is he doing right now?! Again, I don’t know what to make of all this.

This week I don’t even know what questions to ask. Systemic racism is a huge monster. I think the present day is better than life was for African Americans in the 50′ and 60’s. Based on what I feel right now, I cringe to think what it must have been like to endure the threat of lynching or being burned alive as some Black people experienced in the Jim Crow era… and for there to be a spectacle made of it (the perpetrators acting with impunity):

The body of Rubin Stacy hanging from a tree in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, July 19, 1935. He was lynched by a mob for allegedly attacking a white woman. (Photo and Caption from Britannica.com)

Look at the posture of the people who are alive in this photo. Look at the body of the Black Man hanging. For that time and place it was normal. Now watch this video that documents the arrest of George Floyd. Please watch the entire video if you have time but I have set it to start at a particularly disturbing place so be warned but you should watch:

Video of George Floyd’s Arrest.

Look at the posture and face of the the officer who murdered Floyd. Look at the officer who is standing between the bystanders trying to save Floyd’s life and his fellow officer who is literally killing a man before their eyes. Look at how George Floyd’s head and neck are totally limp when the officer finally removes his knee from Floyd’s neck. Remember these images…

What’s really sad is that over the last decade this seems to have become normal for our day and time. I really, really want to believe that we are better off today than we were in the 30’s. I also believe that in the 1930’s what happened to Ruben Stacy in the picture above probably happened with a lot more frequency and the perpetrators probably acted with a great measure of impunity. Who knows how many Black bodies rest at the bottom of lakes… undiscovered victims of the Jim Crow Era. Civilians with smartphones, store cameras, and police cameras captured what happened to George Floyd. Despite that, how many incidents like this go unnoticed today?

-Travis

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