Adobe Stock photo |
By Yvonne Thomas
Looking outside as the sun rose over the Monterey Bay this morning, the feeling in the air was a little melancholy. The calm and idyllic view of the beautiful ocean is the exact polar opposite of the civil unrest shaking the world right now like a global earthquake measuring 8.5 on the Richter scale. But this is no natural disaster. This unsettling feeling was the byproduct of a global pandemic caused by man over the course of the last 400 years.
George Floyd’s murder by law enforcement officers in Minneapolis on May 25 was just the most recent tremor. Today, his name is featured in headlines of every newspaper and media outlet across the world, but unfortunately his name is just another on a long list of Black men and women who have been profiled, assaulted, and murdered by a racist and calculated system of law enforcement.
For far too long, we as a society have collectively sat on our hands and done nothing. But this, for some reason, is very different. The enormous attention that Mr. Floyd’s death is receiving worldwide is unprecedented. And there is one burning question that is troubling me. Why did George Floyd have to be sacrificed in order for the world to wake up?
I am a native of Seaside. Born in Fort Ord and raised in a military family. I was raised to honor and respect the flag. The debates I’ve participated in with friends and acquaintances here on the Peninsula and on social media have left me exhausted because of the wide chasm that exists between us regarding the interpretation of Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem.
My father and mother both served this country in the military. Dad was a command sergeant major in the Army and made it a point to hang the flag outside of our home. That flag proudly honored this country, its citizens’ freedom of speech AND their right to peaceful protest. The two are NOT mutually exclusive.
Why did George Floyd have to be sacrificed in order for the world to wake up?
I’ve watched my emotions run the gamut from anger and disgust to a sense of pride as the citizens of Seaside and the Monterey Peninsula have engaged in peaceful protests – much differently than some of the other protests that are engulfing not only the streets of America, but on almost every continent on this planet. 2020 is very different. We’ve been pleading for change for a very long time, but now our voices are being joined by a global brotherhood.
The people of the world are uniting and bringing awareness to corruption and injustice within our systems of government by supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. And it is imperative and critical that everyone recognize the distinct differences between a protester and a looter. Protesters are protesting. They are not the people who are engaged in opportunistic looting and acts of violence. Be clear about that and don’t get it twisted.
Bad cops are being exposed. This is not an indictment of all police officers, but it is a wake-up call to the undeniable fact that much reform is needed. I have too many Black family members and friends who have non-stop stories of being profiled by the police all over this country and here on the Monterey Peninsula – past and present.
I have personally been profiled on three separate occasions. The first and scariest time was one evening when I was 17 years old and driving a brand-new Pontiac Firebird that my parents bought for me. Police pulled up behind me with lights flashing so I pulled over. They yelled to me over a loudspeaker to turn the car off, roll down my window, throw my keys out onto the street and stick both hands outside of the window. My friend, who was also 17, was sitting in my passenger seat.
Terrified because I knew I had not been speeding or done anything wrong, we complied with their demands. After a few minutes, officers approached my car with flashlights shining on us through the windows. They said my car looked suspicious, and that there had been some burglaries in the area, but as they approached my car, they realized that we were female, and that they had been looking for two Black males. The officers returned my keys to me and told us we could go. They walked away and never even offered an apology for the distress they had caused us that night.
Each incident of profiling, each assault, each arrest has caused irreparable damage to the individuals involved.
This is just my story. I wasn’t physically injured, but this incident happened several decades ago, and it stays fresh in my mind. I urge you to talk to your Black friends and acquaintances because trust me, they have a story too. Incidents like the one I described have served as an attempt to break the collective spirits of an entire race.
Each incident of profiling, each assault, each arrest has caused irreparable damage to the individuals involved. And now with George Floyd, we have yet another name to add to the list of those who have been senselessly murdered. WE HAVE HAD ENOUGH.
What we are witnessing now is a shift in our fight for survival. When the truth is being distorted by those we elect into positions of power, it is then necessary for us to formulate another plan of action that will ensure the safety of our race. The generational pain that has been passed down in our families and that is buried deeply in our hearts will never go away until systemic racism is addressed and eradicated.
How many other actions like this have taken place that are not witnessed by the public eye?
What can be done? Call it out when you see it. Identify the bad seeds in law enforcement agencies and remove them. And make sure that those officers who break the law are prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to the fullest extent of the law. Just to clarify … the Black community is not anti-police, but we are anti-unlawful police brutality and harassment.
During peaceful protests, it is important that law enforcement not be seen as an occupying power. Officers on the Monterey Peninsula, and particularly in Seaside right now, are making a conscious effort to connect with and embrace the community. And the Justice in Policing Act bill that was recently unveiled by House and Senate Democrats is a positive step in the right direction, but it’s just a start.
What if Darnella Frazier hadn’t recorded George Floyd’s murder? How many other actions like this have taken place that are not witnessed by the public eye? One egregious act was caught on film, we were outraged, and we are responding. The countless other incidents that weren’t filmed and that aren’t in the spotlight remain hidden in the shadows. That gives me pause.
Although the morning sunrise was melancholy for me, I do remain hopeful that steps are being taken so that I can witness many heartwarming sunsets in the future. Let us not forget George Floyd. We as a people can and must do better if we truly want to put an end to this ongoing and unlawful attack on our community and its citizens. Marching in the streets can generate much needed attention but marching to the voting booth can generate long lasting change.
Have something to say about this story? Send us a letter.