OPINION: Something must be done

Sports editor, Peter Burtnett, discusses the injustices of police brutality and emphasizes that people must come together because something must be done about America’s flawed system. Photo of George Floyd protests courtesy of Wikimedia.

Peter Burtnett
Sports Editor

As I sit in my room at home, I thought the only issue discussed would be the impact of COVID-19 on sports and what those sports would look like in the fall if they go ahead. However, recent events regarding police brutality and inequality towards African Americans have made me more aware than ever that something must be done.

My first exposure to police brutality towards African Americans was in 2014 when NBA players wore black shirts with “I Can’t Breathe” printed on them in reference to the last words uttered by Eric Garner when he was held in a chokehold by an arresting officer until he died.

Although I didn’t fully understand the situation at 14 years old, the seed was planted and I began to see some form of racial inequality and police brutality towards African Americans.

Over the years that followed, 2016 saw the beginning of NFL players, led by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, kneeling during the National Anthem. 

I’ll be transparent: at the time, I was bothered by the display. I didn’t understand the scope of inequality and police brutality, so I was simply offended that these “privileged” players were kneeling during the anthem while veterans with prosthetic legs were still standing for it.

But as the situation continued to remain the same (or even get worse – as the cops that were supposed to protect civilians were instead killing them in cold blood), I began to understand why Kaepernick and others took their stand (no pun intended).

With the platform that they earned with their talent on the field or court, players like NBA superstar LeBron James made known their position on the situation through different mediums such as social media posts or through media interviews.

Now, the recent killings of Ahmaud Arbery by two radical racists in Georgia and George Floyd by a policeman in Minneapolis has brought my knowledge of the situation to a head.

For a while now, I have been trying to find the words to say that would address what is beyond wrong and truly tragic about these murders/killings.

Figures like Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X fought hard to keep these very acts from happening again and again, yet we have failed to accomplish such simple equality.

Is it equal that African Americans have to fear for their safety when they go for a jog? Is it equal that their children have to be taught to obey the police perfectly, lest they face brute force, or worse, a bullet? Is it equal that they face a 22 percent poverty rate? Is it equal that they have to be kind and respectful to everyone, or else be labeled an “angry black man or woman?”

I’ll be honest, I may not be the right person to spread this message.

I’m white, lean conservative and have never personally faced outward racial aggression or witnessed anyone close to me experience it. But someone needs to take a stand from this “side,” because the sides that have been ingrained in our minds are wrong on so many levels and the walls that divide us need to be broken.

We are all human beings, and the construct of race should not be something that divides us, but something that brings us together and should be considered unique, not different. We should be proud of who we are, not in a way that puts us above another race, but that brings our different perspectives together to create unity.

I know the idea might sound Utopian or hard to reach, but there is a middle ground between being supremacist in how one is proud of their race and being silent about it.

A good example of this middle ground is portrayed in the box office smash-hit movie Black Panther. In this movie the main villain, Erik Killmonger, suggests starting over with a new world where “we’re on top.” His counterpart, cousin and main protagonist, T’Challa, wrestles with whether the nation he is king of Wakanda should show what they can do.

Ryan Googler, the director of the movie, directed a phenomenal movie, but more than that, he may have left a blueprint for how a race can show its pride without being supremacist, how to bring its best to the table without pushing it to the front. 

Yes, it’s a movie. But the ideas shown in Black Panther are more than just entertainment for 2 hours. It may seem ridiculous to suggest that a movie can solve the racial issues that have been a part of American society since we kicked Native Americans off their land, but nothing else seems to be working.

At the end of the day, something needs to be done. 

As citizens of the United States of America, we need to hold our police in check by whatever means we can. When they enforce their authority when it is not viable, they need to be held accountable. 

And when they do what the Minneapolis policeman did to George Floyd, without resistance from the arrested individual, they need to be judged as what they are guilty of: manslaughter.

I’m by no means saying we the citizens should be the judge, jury and executioner, but we need to take a stand, and we need to do that as one. It can’t just be one race standing by themselves as they continue to face racial inequality and injustice: we need to stand as one people as part of what should be a great nation.

We need to come together and support those who face segregation, which tragically still exists to this day. Even if it is simply putting an arm around someone’s shoulder in support and unity, we need to do something to change. 

That might take looking introspectively and asking ourselves, “Do I care?” when something like George Floyd’s death happens. If that answer isn’t an immediate “yes,” then you are the problem.

Seeing the video of George Floyd’s last moments on earth as the latest in a line far too long of similar deaths, I felt sick to my stomach and was truly brokenhearted by what I saw. 

I was sickened by the lack of conviction shown by the cop who kneeled on Floyd’s neck, and just as much by the three other cops who stood by and did nothing.

What was also tragic was when the onlookers tried to move their way towards Floyd’s body and pleaded for the cops to check his pulse, the policeman kneeling on Floyd’s neck pulled out what looked like a taser and enforced his “authority” to keep the people nearby from doing what he should have been doing: keeping Floyd safe.

I’m not here to debate whether Floyd should have been arrested or whether he was resisting arrest before the video began. That doesn’t matter anymore because what does matter now cancels that out: a man who had a family was killed in the street in broad daylight as people filmed what was happening.

It’s as simple as that, because four cops who were supposed to protect us are now complicit in a murder. And for now, those four cops were simply fired as of Tuesday, May 26.

(Derek Chauvin was finally brought into custody on Friday and charged with third-degree murder).

It’s 2020, 155 years after the end of the Civil War and 56 years since the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but we still see discrimination because of race. 

I’m not here to offer a solution or say, “This is how we fix racial inequality and eliminate police brutality towards African Americans,” but what I am here to say is that something must be done.

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