Saturday, May 30, 2020

Justice for All?

How can anyone remain silent after viewing the horrific murder of George Floyd? As I watched the video, I asked myself: How would I respond if I was part of the crowd that was pleading for the police officers to just let him breathe? How would I respond if I find myself in a similar situation? Would I rush the cops? Would I attempt non-violent resistance like Gandhi? Would I conspire with other onlookers to place these rogue cops under citizen’s arrest and hope that somehow that would stick? Would I dial 911 and plead with the dispatcher to help stop the murder? Could I stand by helplessly and watch someone die for no apparent reason? 

Conservatives and Liberals can all agree that what happened was wrong… tragic… senseless… reprehensible! It represents what the Black Community has been repeating for years: that America is a racist country. Demonstrations have emerged across our nation, some peaceful and others violent. People who have become frustrated with a system they believe is broken have spread carnage, looting stores and setting the 3rd precinct in Minneapolis on fire. 

In my hometown of Indianapolis, a demonstration over the shooting of Dreasjon Reed turned violent. Dreasjon went to the same high school as my own kids. His final moments were documented on a Facebook live stream video, and protestors frustrated over his death, now compounded with the murder of George Floyd, ultimately found themselves being pelleted with tear gas and rubber bullets. 

I learned as a naval officer in training that perceptions are every bit as real in their consequences as reality. Over the years, people have shortened this management principle to say “Perception is reality”, but if we really want to fix this broken culture, we have to deal with both perceptions and reality. Is America a racist country or is America a country that still has racists? Is the system broken or do we have broken people subverting the system? 

Perceptions are every bit as real in their consequences as reality. 
We must deal with both perceptions and reality. 

It shocks me that all four officers involved in the killing of George Floyd were not immediately taken into custody in light of the video documenting the entire incident. If it was sufficient to immediately fire those officers, then why was it not also appropriate to apprehend them? Stating that an investigation was underway while letting these men walk was fuel for the fire that eventually destroyed their precinct. 

I have family members that served as police officers, and I am very proud of their service. Cops see the worst of society on a daily basis, and they live in a society that ties their hands behind their back while telling them to keep our streets safe, often proclaiming them guilty until proven innocent. Yet our society needs to be swift in holding them accountable for actions unbefitting of their office. With power comes responsibility, and police need to be held to a higher standard than the society that they serve, especially when technology that documents unacceptable behavior is in the fingertips of nearly every person above the age of 13. In other words: we need to refine our system so that it works as it was intended to work and with greater expediency. 
We need to refine our system so that it works as it was intended to work and with greater expediency. 
We also need to respectfully call out the lies as they emerge, dispelling perceptions that are not based in reality, no matter how tragic. The death of Dreasjon Reed was such a tragedy. Watching his final moments on video filled me with both sadness and anger. He stated that he didn’t want to go back to jail. He fled the police in a high-speed chase, and ultimately he pulled a gun on a black police officer who shot Dreasjon multiple times, ending the fugitive’s life. Dreasjon’s death cannot be compared to George Floyd, and the actions of the police in these two situations cannot be more different. I’m sorry that Dreasjon is dead. I truly am. I sincerely wish he had made better choices that didn’t result in his death, but the perception that his death resulted from a racist system is a lie, not based in reality. 

If we want to see healing in our country, in our cities, and in our communities, we need to acknowledge the issues and work on them together. That is what reasonable people do. May God help us address our issues reasonably, not shouting down people with a different perspective or avoiding the tough conversations that need to be discussed. We need to respectfully disagree until our collaborative efforts towards healing cultivate the unity of Dr. Martin Luther King’s Dream .


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