The other day I saw an acquaintance in the store. We exchanged the usual pleasantries, but when I asked how things were going, she said, “I thought we were getting a handbasket.”
It took me a minute before I caught on to the joke.
I can certainly see why people would think that. This year has been trying for everyone.
I think most of us watched in mounting fear the rising irritation of the public at large, expecting the powder keg of forced joblessness and isolation to come to a violent head.
And it did.
The death of George Floyd, caused by Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin, was the spark. Lifetimes of inequality, coupled with blatant — or arguably worse, furtive — racism have led many Americans to stand up and yell ENOUGH.
I accompanied a reporter to the protest held Monday on Main Street of Bradford. A flurry of thoughts have been circling my mind ever since.
First, the young man who organized the protest, Trevor Givan, was clear that he didn’t want any violence. He wanted the message, and the protest, to be taken seriously. His sign said “Black Lives Matter.” When one of the bystanders asked him about it, Givan said he believes all lives matter.
And he’s correct. I’m reminded of the Bible passage Luke 15, the parable of the lost sheep. To summarize, a shepherd leaves his flock — 99 sheep — to search for one lost sheep, for it was the one that needed him most.
It isn’t that the 99 don’t matter, and it isn’t that all other races don’t matter. It’s that right now, Americans need to stand up and say they believe that black lives matter — those Americans need us most.
Those human beings need us most.
And at the same time, police lives matter. They are human beings, too.
These concepts are not mutually exclusive.
Rioting isn’t OK. Looting isn’t OK. And I would venture a guess that most people protesting would feel the same way.
In every profession, in every walk of life, there will be some bad seeds. In my opinion, what people are asking is kind of the same thing: Don’t judge everyone by the actions of a few.
At Monday’s protest, there were some shouted slurs against the police. But I can tell you, the police officers I spoke to — who were standing guard in the hot sun to make sure the protesters were safe, as were the residents — didn’t seem to take it to heart.
In my opinion, they understand the actions of Derek Chauvin were a horrific tragedy, and they understand the anger and mistrust that comes from such actions by someone wearing a badge.
Again, don’t judge everyone by the actions of a few.
There will always be people who try to throw fuel on the fire, figuratively and literally. In fact, at and after Monday’s protest, Era staff have been approached by people telling us not to cover the events.
“You guys are the problem,” we heard over and over again.
In my mind, that way of thinking is the problem. Silence doesn’t make for a solution.
We were accused of setting up photos, of giving the event credibility by being there. You know, I hope that is true. I hope that people are taking notice.
Protests in support of what is right can be done peacefully. The point is well taken when the message isn’t overshadowed by violence and destruction.
In the Stephen King book “The Green Mile,” character John Coffey makes a speech about being tired. “Mostly, I’m tired of people being ugly to each other. I’m tired of all the pain I feel and hear in the world, every day.”
I’m tired, too. I imagine we all are.
Speak up. Let it be known that we won’t accept less than equality for everyone.
(Marcie Schellhammer is the Era’s assistant managing editor. She can be reached at email@example.com)