An Opportunity For Reflection

It’s crazy out there man. Just walk outside, walk around outside and walk around where people are. Since February it’s been the covid. Since last week it’s been about George Floyd.

It’s crazy out there.

Grocery shopping is mostly the same. But only mostly. Increasingly I am getting scolding looks for not wearing a mask when I’m at the store. But so far that’s been it; an occasional glance or a slight frown of disapproval. A couple of times I’ve noticed an actual physical recoil. For example, as I’m making my way out of the aisle to move about the one of the two main horizontal aisles I’ll forget to look and all of a sudden I have intruded the personal space of someone. And to be sure, I have. I am absolutely overly close to that guy and I absolutely am the one that moved into his space. Before, before covid, this happened no more or less than it does today. But today is different. Today the guy recoils. It’s as if I have the plague. And maybe that’s truer than we know. Anyway, grocery shopping is mostly the same.

Work is WAY different. First, I don’t go work anymore. I go to the corner of my room, to my ‘office’ and from there I do my job. I haven’t been to my real office in weeks. Months. I don’t see my co-workers, I don’t see folks getting coffee or lunch. I don’t stop for a beer on the way home. The dogs love it though.

It’s crazy out there.

And then the world blew up.

A cop in Minneapolis, responding to a call regarding a counterfeit $20 bill, apprehended George Floyd, a black man, arrested him, placed him in handcuffs and while he was laying on the ground, not resisting or posing any threat to either 1. run or 2. to the officer, placed his knee on the neck of Mr. Floyd and held it there, for 9 minutes, until Mr. Floyd died.

That cop, for no reason, choked George Floyd until he was dead.

And the nation is now on fire. The anger, the frustration and the rage that has been felt by the communities across America have led to reasonable, legitimate and mostly peaceful protests. Black Americans have taken to the streets to voice their anger, their rage, their fear and their frustration over the continued abuse at the hands of their cities and towns, their states and their nation and yes sometimes their police. They are rising up and voicing their opposition to years, decades, generations – centuries, of oppression and abuse and fear.

These people are afraid. And they are tired of being afraid.

And they are right.

These protests are full of emotion. These protests are raw emotion. They are all about emotion; rage, fear, resentment – even a reckoning. And as so often happens when emotions are running high, outcomes that we don’t wanna see can spill into the open. These righteous protests have devolved into riots. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that these righteous protests have been followed by unrighteous riots. To say that America is burning is not a metaphor. Turn on any news channel and you’ll see one city after another, one state after another, on fire. Police fighting citizen; neighbor burning neighbor.

America is burning; it’s crazy out there.

It’s natural, I suppose, to ask yourself, ‘what can I do?’ And there might be obvious answers to that question – I suspect that my younger self had those answers anyway. I’m older than I once was (and younger than I’ll be that’s not unusual) and now I wonder not so much if I am wrong, but I wonder if I ever was right? I know that I don’t have all the answers. I’m now left with wondering if I have any.

It’s been awhile since I have visited this place here at Tarheel. And longer since I have routinely posted like I did all those years ago – kids and ever increasing responsibilities contribute to this decline. But with all that’s been going on I find myself failing back on an old addage I’m fond of:


How do I know what I think until I am able to see what I say?

So, I’m back here old friend. At least for today.

So, what do I think about race today? What do I think about the issues that America faces with respect to race? That’s a question with an answer much larger than a single post here. To be sure. But I do feel compelled to rough it out, to sketch the broad outlines.

I think that America has a lot of hurt in us. And I don’t think that I’ve always felt that way. I think that we’ve got more work to do than I was willing to acknowledge in the past; though I am still optimistic about where we find ourselves. I firmly believe that we’ve made remarkable progress in my lifetime. Gone are the days of codified racism; lunch counters to buses to restrooms to water fountains are all relegated to the history books. Opportunities, if not outcomes, are available and open to all of us. Who can’t become a doctor, a teacher, an attorney? A President?

But. Outcomes. There is very little solace in equality if we don’t equally feel equal. And the outcomes are definitely not equal. I can’t help but feel if it might be THAT fact that is driving the rage today. I don’t know.

Okay, but, so what DO I know – or, perhaps more correctly, what do I think I know today? I think I know that we don’t agree on what racism means. I think that the division in America is politically driven. I believe that policies in place absolutely affect the outcomes that we see today.

I believe that data is critical in this debate. All data – the more of it the better. I believe that we have to have a conversation about what’s going on around here and that we have to allow for that debate to be honest and fear free. Free from the fear of being labelled ‘a hater’ or ‘a racist’. I believe that the free market is the single greatest anti-poverty machine the world has ever seen. I believe that America, the concept that we call America, the promises given to us through the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of the United States are darn near holy documents.

I believe that we are fallible; we are a fallen humanity complete with the failures, sins and ugliness commensurate with being human. I believe that we are still the greatest nation on earth.

And finally. Finally, I believe that deep down, we know, we ALL know, that the world is watching us. Watching us and holding its breath. The world is holding its breath because the world knows, the world knows that if America fails here, there is no hope anywhere else.

At least I think I know.

So, tonight and into this week I’m gonna go back and see what I’ve said. I have a category labelled ‘Race’ and I’m gonna go back through and read what I’ve said. And reflect on what I’ve said and then see if I feel differently.

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