OPINION: Silence equals complicity. I won’t be silent.

Editor’s note

The officer that suffocated George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for more than seven minutes (described by Minneapolis police as “man dies after medical incident during police interaction”) killed another citizen during Amy Klobuchar’s tenure as Minnesota State Attorney General. During her administration (1999-2007), Klobuchar declined to bring charges against that same officer, along with more than two dozen others who killed citizens while on duty.

More from the above-linked article:

The police force’s own data shows that, while black people make up only 18 percent of the population, they were involved in nearly half of all police stops. Conversely, whites make up 60 percent of the population but figured in less than 21 percent of the stops. 62 percent of body searches and 63 percent of people whose cars were searched were also black.

A letter to the editor by Marty Hagerty of Cinnaminson, NJ

Yesterday, another black man was killed by a cop, and his family and community are grieving and demanding justice.

A trained police officer knelt on George Floyd’s neck until he could no longer breathe. The police officer who put his knee on his neck had his hands in his pockets. To me, that looked like he didn’t have to exert any effort at all to hold Mr. Floyd down. I tried kneeling like that, on a pillow, with my hands in my pockets. I’m in pretty good shape, and I wobbled. That cop was steady and sure and he knew exactly where to put his knee so that it would have maximum impact. He knew what he was doing. And the other three cops on the scene, watched and let it happen.

Just yesterday, a woman in NYC was relieved of her dog after she was exposed for calling 911 on a black man who was literally watching birds. Her dog was immediately taken away because she was choking him with the collar. Four white cops have been fired in Minneapolis, but as of now, there are no charges against any of them. Why is that?

My friends with black and brown skin are grieving today. I’m seeing tweets that say there is an obvious effort to obliterate the black race and that no one cares. My niece is married to a black man, and they have a beautiful black baby boy, and he will be raised in a way that is different from the way I raised my son, because my son’s life was never going to be in danger if he went for a run in the neighborhood.

All over Twitter, there are white people talking about black on black crime, and specific examples of a black man who killed a white person, as if that excuses this, somehow. There is a lot of “blue lives matter” on social media today in response to the black community demanding justice and change.

I taught my kids that silence equals complicity. None of us can be silent, and neither can the many good cops who I know are working every day to do the right thing.

I’d like to see two things come from this, but I won’t hold my breath.

I’d like to see every white parent sit down with their kids at dinner and discuss systemic racism in this country. It’s going to require some research because public school systems haven’t taught the truth about this and most of us think we’re already “woke”. It’s not going to be easy to tell your kids that pretty much everything they have, learn, hope for and have potential for is twice as likely to happen for them because their skin is white. It’s going to be awkward and uncomfortable and difficult because if you do it, you’re going to have to admit some things about yourself and your life that are embarrassing and should cause shame. But it’s a necessary conversation, and maybe knowing that every black parent in America does this on a regular basis so their kids won’t get killed when they go out for a candy bar, will make it slightly less uncomfortable.

I’d also like to see all the good cops come together and denounce this behavior that is destroying the reputation of their profession. If ever there was a time for good cops to stand up and speak, it’s now. Loudly, publicly and with no equivocation. Police officers all over this country could put a stop to this right now, if they wanted to. They could pick a day, gather themselves, get in front of some press and declare that they will not tolerate this from their co workers another minute. They will have to start watching each other and helping each other make the changes that must be made. And they will have to be willing to turn in and testify against, those officers who they know to be doing the wrong thing. It won’t be easy, but it must be done.

Silence equals complicity. I won’t be silent. I will grieve with my friends and stand with them demanding justice and change, knowing full well that I can never know their pain because the color of my skin affords me a level of comfort that they have never had.

I won’t hold my breath, but I will hold my hope, small though it may be.

Editor’s note: The opinions in this letter are the author’s only.

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