By Andy Salmonsen
Photo, left, by Henri Migala: George Floyd protest in La Mesa May 30 drew many white participants and people of all races marching in solidarity against racism and police violence
June 7, 2020 (Jamul, California) – This week, I spoke with a good friend and fellow musician. He is truly a great person and a good man. I could talk about his talent, his humor, and his personality, but that is not what this is about. I asked if I could mention him in the post and he said yes. But as I write this, I don’t want to mention his name because that’s not what this is about, and I don’t want to detract from what really matters. I will call him Mr. C. Mr. C Is black. I asked him if I should reference black people or African American and he said black was ok. Black lives matter. I asked him that question because I am white, and I don’t know what it’s like to be black. I have no idea. 72% of us in the United States have no idea what it is like to be anything other than white.
The conversation was about what I thought of the situation in our nation right now regarding George Floyd, and also why had I not posted anything about how I felt. Mr. C is really feeling this, he is protesting and he if standing up for what he believes. I listened to him as he told me how he was feeling and how a lot of his white friends seemed to say the same thing I did, “I don’t really post.” Mr. C and I love each other like brothers, but I think he was wondering who I really was, who was I underneath in my heart and soul? It brought me to tears hearing his voice and his pain.
The most important word in the world to me is Honor. If I act honorably towards others I feel I can’t really go wrong. I try to treat people with honor and respect unless they revoke those rights themselves. I would like to think of myself as the most non-racist and non- prejudice person in the world, but I’m sure that’s not true. I know that I completely believe it is appalling to judge someone based on their skin color, religious belief or lack there of, sex or sexual preference. It is such a puerile and ignorant concept that it defies understanding to me. It is dishonorable.
I know there are people out there who think that there is no racism like there used to be. You are wrong. I have seen it firsthand. I have seen our bass player, Ed, be discriminated against right in front of me. Ed is my daughter’s Godfather. He is a great dad, a good man and I love him like a brother. We were at a gig in Kentucky and we were standing by the custom-built stage we were to perform on later that night. The situation was that it was ok for me to be by the stage, but not Ed. The event coordinator assumed Ed was kitchen help and should not be there. She questioned him as if he were a criminal. I honestly could not believe it was happening.
I talked to Mr. C about his life growing up and what he encountered. One of his first encounters was when he was in grade school and the teacher singled out the black kids and put them in the corner for no reason. He was called the “N” word as a child and up into being an adult. He was stopped by police when he was a teenager and they pulled their guns on him for being out after curfew, he was afraid he would be shot. I asked another black friend about his experiences, and he said he always has a fear of something going really bad if he gets stopped by a police officer. I don’t have that fear when I get stopped by a police officer. I am white. I spoke to three different black friends and they all had stories of racism, fear and discrimination. I know these people and they are good to the core. We tend to say, “well, they must have done something to deserve the treatment they received.” he only thing they did was to be black.
Now I also know there are very good people who are police officers as well, so I in no way want to make any blanket statements about law enforcement. Generalizations and stereotypes are almost as bad as prejudice. There are a lot of good officers out there that put their live on the line daily, and they deserve our support as well. I don’t know what it’s like to have to worry about being killed on the job. I am sorry for all the law enforcement officers who are good out there and are being attacked because of this. The problem is that we have seen this scenario too many times.
I think it’s fair to unfortunately generalize, that most of the media is so blatantly biased in their reporting, and that our opinions are shaped by what they feed us. In the George Floyd incident I saw a story that shaped the narrative of him doing nothing but cooperating. I saw another where he seemed to be resisting arrest by not getting into the police vehicle. None of these videos tell the whole story, yet we see what we want and believe what we choose. The bottom line is he was arrested and killed for a $20 counterfeit bill he may not have even know was fake. And even if he did, should he die for that? No.
We live in a world where everyone has a camera and we now see everything. I am pretty sure what happened to George Floyd has happened to a lot of other black people in the past, but no one was there to get it on video. I don’t remember ever seeing something like this happen to someone white.
Photo, right by Henri Migala: George Floyd protest in La Mesa drew thousands of people.
I am not sure I can make a difference in what I say, but I want to support Mr. C and my other black friends and colleagues and I want them to know that I will stand with them and will speak and act against racism and the injustice of people being killed because of the color of their skin. There are good and bad people of every color. The color of your skin does not dictate who you are. I will teach my kids what racism is in a more profound way so they really understand why it is so evil.
I cannot recall any time in my life where I was discriminated against because I was white or was afraid of a police officer because I was white. I don’t know what it’s like to have a mom or dad who had to use a certain bathroom because of their skin color. I don’t know what it like to have a grandparent that saw someone lynched because of the color of their skin. I don’t know what it’s like to have my family history traced to being a slave. If you think that those things are in the past and should not matter, you are wrong. If you think racism is a farce, you are wrong. I would ask everyone who is white to really talk to their black friends. Hopefully you have a few. Ask them if they have ever been discriminated against or felt afraid for their wellbeing because of the color of their skin. I would bet my life savings that all of them will have stories to tell you.
Photo, left: Thomas Jefferson (Creative Common image by SA-NC)
The following from Thomas Jefferson is often misquoted, which again is someone else trying to tell you what to think and believe. But this is the full quote:
“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it's natural manure.”
Blood has been spilled. Let it finally not be in vain.
And this quote which I slightly altered to what I believe it should be:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all human beings are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”.
I believe in this country with my very being. I believe in what the USA should be. We are not what we should be right now, but we can be.
I think being a racist is like being an alcoholic. You know you are one, but you don’t really want to admit to it. You hide it, but it’s always there. Ask yourself if you have any racist thoughts or actions and change them. Stop them. Judge not, lest ye be judged.
Everything above I say with conviction and love and I pray we can change what is wrong in our country and this world.
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