I've been asked by many about my feelings about the murder of George Floyd, and subsequent reactions. I've wanted to sort my thoughts, choose my words, and move slow. I'm extremely concerned about our future, and only want to say and do things are meant to help us to a better one.
1. This is a complex, nuanced subject with lots of sides to stories, inbetweens, and shades of grey. If your thoughts can be expressed in a bumper sticker, tweet, or meme, I think you may be oversimplifying things and should reconsider.
2. There is absolutely no excuse for what happened to Mr. Floyd. It was murder. It was disgusting. All four officers need to be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible, and the Minneapolis police department, which in my opinion has been complicit in this type of behavior needs to be overhauled. The crime goes deeper than just those four officers.
3. If you still do not believe that people of color often get treated differently than white people in this country, you are being naive. Please read more, converse more, and listen more. There is a systemic problem in this country, which goes well beyond law enforcement.
4. The overwhelming percentage of people in law enforcement are really good, honest, incredibly hard working people who put themselves in constant danger for the good of the rest of us. They often work horrible hours, deal with people that most of us don't have the patience to, see horrible scenes like fatal car accidents, murder and suicides, and others. In the face of this, most of them handle themselves with poise, grace, and professionalism. There are 800,000 sworn law enforcement officers in this country, please don't let the actions of some define them all.
5. One of the ways to improve law enforcement in this country is to get more of our best and brightest in uniform. When a young person who is in the midst of deciding their path in life hears chants like "what do we want?.......dead cops", is that going to make them want to be a cop? What about when they hear stories of police officers constantly be harassed, including to the point of getting fecies thrown in their face?
6. You know who really hates bad cops? The rest of them. When something like Mr. Floyd's murder happens in makes the rest of their jobs much more difficult and dangerous.
7. Law enforcement is getting better, maybe not as fast as everyone would like, but they are working to improve. All across this country, there are programs to improve training, mental health, and oversight of police departments. Why does it feel like it is getting worse? Because more is being caught on film, and you are seeing more. That is actually a good thing, because it is forcing police departments to work harder to improve.
8. Understand that protesting and the right to protest is a fundamental part of this country. Think back to your American history classes and how many times in our history something has been fixed, changed, or improved because of protest. If you say something like "I hate protesters".....you should rethink that. You might hate a specific type of protester, but you should recognize that many protesters have improved the lives of you and I.
9. Understand that the majority of protestors are very good people who are trying to look out for others, and make this country live up to the ideals it promised. There are tons of non-violent, non-destructive marchers and protesters around the country that are getting overshadowed by a few.
10. If you are a protestor and you are wanting change, understand that it is a long haul. Study the civil rights movement. Changing a system that has been broken for a long time does not happen in a few days or weeks. You want things to be different? Bring your long game.
11. Don't be so intellectually lazy as to label entire groups of people with one broad stroke. Police, protestors, white people, people of color, etc. are all different. No one really likes to be summarized by one word, so don't do it to others.
12. Understand the incredibly volatile moment we are in, and choose your words and actions with the future in mind. Think five years from now, not five minutes from now. Sometimes that angry post or meme feels good at the moment, but is it really helping shape a better future? We have millions of angry, hurt, extremely frustrated people in this country. When you say or post something, is it going to help us get better? Or, is it only meant to insult, divide, and pit people against each other?
Behavior is contagious and words matter.
13. Work for peace, a better America and better world. Understand that there is something we have in common: No one really wants life to be like this.
Bob Hammitt is a high school Social Studies teacher from Canby, Oregon who draws on his knowledge and love of history to teach valuable lessons for our present and future.