I have mostly been laying low and keeping quiet on social media the last 48 hours. Not because I don’t think what happened to George Floyd was wrong. It was indeed wrong. Crooked police officers killed him. In my eyes they murdered him. But I have kept quiet because I am scared of getting ripped apart on cyberspace. I recognize two things: The sadness of the whole situation involving George Floyd and the four police officers, and that tribalism rears its ugly head in emotionally-charged situations.
Goodness, the venom I’ve seen on social media regarding everything is ridiculous. I’ve seen several people on Facebook blame all police for George Floyd’s death, condone and champion the vandalism of police cars and buildings, encourage looting and rioting, and condemnation of anyone who doesn’t react as angrily as they do. And quite frankly, their behavior pisses me off as much as the murder of George Floyd! Aren’t people better and smarter than that?!
The primal, tribal mindset in our country is ridiculous. People seem to be fiercely sticking with “their crowd” and demonizing others. It’s absolutely everywhere. Democrats vs. Republicans. Those who think COVID-19 is a problem vs. those who disregard it. And once again, the African-American community vs. Police Officers. Tribalism is a massive problem in this country. This, combined with emotionally charged situations like what went down in Minneapolis three days ago, makes it near impossible for both sides to come to effective solutions to problems. After all, how can there be an effective solution to any problem when one group of people despises or ridicules the other?
I understand that the death of George Floyd was unnecessary and shouldn’t have happened, and that racism is a problem. But I also notice a common denominator in emotionally charged situations like shootings and police brutality: The people who are the most outraged about things like that, expect problems to be taken care of ASAP. And if they’re not, all unholy hell breaks loose.
But here’s the thing: Combating racism and the other societal evils we see, are not easy fixes. Even though people naively seem to expect them to be. The evil that is the most glaring in our society is also a heart issue. Perhaps it’s a legislative issue in some ways, yes. But the perpetrators of these killings are evil at heart. How can we prevent these crimes from happening when the true problem is an evil person or people? Can we even prevent them? I honestly don’t know.
I also think people are incredibly ineffective when they’re emotional. True, emotion is what stirs us to action and change. It has its rightful place. But people don’t think straight when they’re emotional, and they don’t do as much as they could or should. I have also noticed the same cycle whenever we see the death of a black person on the news:
Outrage and anger -> Demand for change -> Legal action against the perpetrator including prison time -> Silence after any extended period of time -> Repeat.
Nowhere do I see in that cycle any attempt or plan for real change. I also do not see long-term effectiveness of athlete demonstrations. Sure they raise awareness. But that is all athletes like LeBron, Colin Kaepernick and others do. They take the first step and go no further. They call for awareness and change, as they should. But beyond that, they don’t lead the way to the real change they want to see. They don’t specifically say: “Here is my plan for combating the problems I see. Follow me!” If they did that, I guarantee you people would be more active in instituting lasting change in the world.
I also think real change (whatever form it may take) doesn’t happen fast enough, or at all, because people find it far more easy to be outraged and angry, than to think through a problem. They find it far more easy to riot or loot, than to do the right thing. Which in my humble opinion would be for them to do several things:
- Recognize the gravity of the situation, but calm down, and don’t demonize other people. Every decent human being thinks it’s horrible whenever an innocent person dies. No one exclusively owns outrage. Many people are upset when things like this happen.
- Sit down with local and national human rights groups, identify the specific problems to fix, and formulate a plan to fix them.
- Organize and execute peaceful protests.
- Work with local and state leaders to change the wrongs they see, such as looking into how police departments under scrutiny, handle racial situations or training of officers. If something is wrong in the higher up chain of command, fix it!
George Floyd dying is tragic. An unarmed man was murdered for no reason. But nothing is going to change. Until a specific plan of action is formulated. In the meantime, I feel that it is our job to treat others with kindness in our small corner of the world: our lives. No matter their skin color or situation. And we should empathize with those who are scared. I have my own life issues to deal with. Everyone does. But I do not know what black people have to deal with when it comes to instances of racial profiling by certain people who have no business wearing the badge. I will never have to deal with that. But the least we can all do, is educate ourselves on what that might be like, study, and put ourselves in their shoes.
Perhaps if we as a society do these things, and become more empathetic toward each other, maybe one day there won’t be situations like this. We can only hope.