The country is reeling. The world is outraged. The footage of a “police officer” slowing suffocating a man – murdering him while in handcuffs, on his belly, completely restrained – as three “fellow officers” assisted/watched has now become etched in our brains. Bystanders pleaded with them to stop only to be met with expressions of smug arrogance. It’s a scene we won’t soon forget.
Now, the anger and the outrage seems to be at a tipping point. Protests, demonstrations, and marches along with rioting, looting, and destruction of property have eclipsed the coverage of the pandemic and the collapse of the economy. Those stories seem old and dusty now, but it was only 9 days ago when we were vigorously debating the need for masks and the possibility of summer camps.
If you have a pulse and a soul, your heart aches right now. It’s hard to wrap your head around this place we’re in. It all feels insurmountable.
“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them and do nothing.” Albert Einstein
Even though most people will admit that the police were wrong and that this systemic, racist abuse of power has got to stop, there are those among us who are more focused on the outraged than the outrageous.
“Sure, the police were wrong, but the riots and violence….”
“I feel bad he was killed, but he had a criminal record, you know…”
“There are a few bad apples in every profession. Not every police officer is corrupt.”
“These protestors! I’m glad my kids didn’t turn out to be idiots and puppets.”
“They blocked the entire street going both ways. Why can’t they take it to a park?”
These are actual sentiments of my white, privileged neighbors. Now before you get all upset and go “libtard” on me, hear me out. First, the science. The human brain can only take so much stress, fear, and uncertainty before it’s flooded with neurotransmitters that make rational thought more difficult. Over time, that overproduction of stress hormones shuts down the prefrontal cortex – the thinking brain – as the survival brain takes over.
In defense of my neighbors, you have no idea how stressful life here has been. We’re just getting back to normal as our beaches and bars are opening back up after months of the pandemic closures. Downtown is finally open again, and we’ve been waiting weeks to get back to our comfortable lives. In addition, the disgraceful job the landscapers have done with the pine straw and shrub maintenance has been infuriating.
If all of that isn’t enough, we’ve got our own civil rights issues to deal with. Currently, there is a petition circulating to fight the property management company regarding the restriction of decorative rocks. Who do they think they are to deny us the enjoyment of decorative rocks?! Do you have any idea how exhausting it is to battle all of that day in and day out?
I mean, sure, George Floyd is dead and his family is preparing a funeral because he met the unfortunate “bad apple” that day. But, c’mon… they’ve all been fired and arrested. Isn’t that what you wanted for all the others before? What else do you want?
In fairness, the Founding Fathers didn’t anticipate the modern day challenges of gated communities like mine in Naples, Florida when they delineated the right to join with fellow citizens in protest or peaceful assembly as a critical tenet to a functioning democracy and the core of the First Amendment. Who has the time and energy to fight the racial injustice that has permeated the fabric of our country for centuries when we’re grappling with the iniquity of banned decorative rocks and sloppy pine straw?
And, what makes you think that this time will be different from Philando Castile or Freddie Gray?
The. List. Goes. On.
Maybe this time will be different because of the chorus of outrage ringing across the globe. Protests. Lots of them. The world is watching.
Then again, we’ve been through this so many times. It will all die down, and we eventually get back to normal.
In defense of my white, privileged neighbors, we’ve got our own problems to deal with right now.
Maybe next time.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Martin Luther King, Jr.