The cashier, in a muffled voice behind her mask, asked, “What do you think about all of this?”
I could tell she wasn’t curious about the coronavirus. We’d talked about that since March, as I purchased my morning edition of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
My reply was one word: ashamed.
I am ashamed there is still racial strife in America.
I am ashamed Derek Chauvin kneeled on George Floyd’s neck long enough to kill him.
I am even more ashamed that the other three policemen didn’t intervene. Chauvin’s partners should have demanded, “Stop! This is wrong!”
I am ashamed that George Floyd’s name was added to the endless list of black men who have died in similar situations.
I am ashamed that black mothers and fathers live in fear for the safety of their sons.
I am ashamed some protesters felt their only recourse was to riot, firebomb and loot.
I am ashamed innocent people were hurt and their property destroyed. I watched an African-American businessman weep. He had put his life savings into his new business, only to watch it go up in smoke.
In the midst of this COVID-19 crisis, one that is decimating lives — emotionally, physically and financially — I am ashamed our “working-together attitude” has been disrupted by anarchy.
America, we are better than this.
Look at me. My pale skin tone doesn’t make me a racist. Likewise, all black people shouldn’t wonder when they’ll be handcuffed and a “Derek Chauvin” will kneel on their necks. There are good people, and there are bad people. The color of your skin is not the determining factor.
I believe in law and order. There are violent situations where aggressive apprehension is necessary. George Floyd was suspected of passing counterfeit paper money. We will never know whether he was guilty, but we do know he’s dead.
I am ashamed that good cops are tainted by Rodney King incidents. Just as George Floyd deserved to live for his day in court, our honest and devoted men and women in law enforcement deserve our appreciation.
George Floyd’s death should not be in vain. Every law-enforcement agency in our nation should use Floyd’s arrest as a textbook on how to not perform its duties. Enough is enough of what happened in Minneapolis and other places.
“Enough is enough” is what drove protesters into the streets, followed by anarchists. I understand the anger and frustration of senseless deaths. Our voices need to be heard. Protesting is an American right. Throwing rocks and bottles and striking matches to destroy other people’s property are not. That’s why we have jails and courts.
I am ashamed our system and our diverse culture have devolved into a quagmire of disgust, outrage and hopelessness to the point of riots.
America, we are better than this.
I am confident we will conquer COVID-19. As a nation, we are too smart to fail. Together, we will prevail.
And in the midst of this unbelievable challenge, we have civil unrest that is swinging like a wrecking ball across the country.
The only way we will prevail in this is by working together — listening, learning and doing more. America is a diverse nation, and I believe the best way to get respect is to give respect. White, black or brown, it shouldn’t matter.
If we haven’t learned something from the past — as recently as Minneapolis — every one of us should be ashamed.
Dink NeSmith is president of Community Newspapers Inc., based in Athens.
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