Following the death of George Floyd, protesters around the globe have called for the United States to do better. The world saw the video of an unarmed black man being suffocated while a police officer kneeled on his neck for nine minutes.
A world already facing fear and frustration over a global pandemic has reacted to one fatal act of inhumanity, the latest of many. Floyd died last week at the hands of Minneapolis police; Breonna Taylor was shot and killed by police in her Kentucky home; and Ahmaud Arbery was killed in Georgia by two white men while jogging.
It is painful to say that America, the champion of fairness, liberty and human rights, has a cancerous heritage of racism.
Great Bend’s protest on Tuesday saw around 60 people coming together to say “black lives matter.” Perhaps because only 2% of our city’s population is black, there was backlash from those who wanted to co-opt the protest. “All lives matter” is the most common it’s-gotta-be-about-me retort. The protesters’ response is, “all lives can’t matter until black lives matter.”
The protest was put together by young people, many in their teens and twenties. It was a peaceful but loosely organized event. There were no outside agitators here, no mass-produced signs. This was just a group that wanted to say Americans do not give consent racial injustice.
It’s time to demand change.
Great Bend police officers did a fine job of monitoring the event, even handing out water while keeping the crowd from spilling from the sidewalk onto Main Street.
Gov. Laura Kelly has praised officers in other Kansas communities for their handling of protests, but no one thinks we can’t do better. This week Kansas lawmakers introduced bills to address police brutality.
Dessa Cline, one of the Great Bend protest organizers, said she wanted “show our community we care.”
At the memorial service Thursday, the Rev. Al Sharpton said “George Floy’ds story has been the story of black folks.”
Former President George W. Bush wrote a letter this week, reminding Americans that “achieving justice for all is the duty of all.”
“This will require a consistent, courageous, and creative effort,” Bush wrote. “We serve our neighbors best when we try to understand their experience. We love our neighbors as ourselves when we treat them as equals, in both protection and compassion. There is a better way — the way of empathy, and shared commitment, and bold action, and a peace rooted in justice. I am confident that together, Americans will choose the better way.”
We can make this about ourselves by saying “all lives matter” and telling those who have been wronged to keep quiet. Or we can listen and show empathy, putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes. It's not about you or me or them. It's about us.