Editorial: Injustice, unrest and action

Posted 6/4/20

The murder of George Floyd lit a match to a nation loaded with combustible material. Quarantined and isolated for months, with tens of millions jobless, with economic stability shattered, with half …

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Editorial: Injustice, unrest and action

Posted

The murder of George Floyd lit a match to a nation loaded with combustible material. Quarantined and isolated for months, with tens of millions jobless, with economic stability shattered, with half of the country’s citizens living in fear of each other, and the other half getting increasingly agitated by their dictatorial government, Americans were simmering.

And then an abhorrent cop choked the life from a black man in broad daylight and the nation exploded.

The outrage is everywhere. Black, white or Hispanic, anyone of any race can look at the video of George Floyd’s death and feel ashamed they live in a country where this can happen. But as the outrage subsides — and it will; it always does — Americans could and should focus their anger productively. Some suggestions:

Police oversight

Because a white officer killed a black man, racism exploded back into American consciousness. Though totally justified, the debate over racism obscures another important topic — a system that shields and protects bad cops.

There are fantastic police officers throughout these towns and across the country. They are kind, professional and unfairly lumped together with the very few bad officers scattered around the country. Based on what we know, Derek Chavin was a bad officer. In his police file are 18 complaints about his behavior, his language and his professionalism. Many officers go an entire career without one complaint; Chauvin averaged one complaint per year.

But throughout America, officers are protected by a “blue shield” that keeps secret all citizen complaints and disciplinary reviews, which are typically conducted by an internal panel and not subject to public records laws.

Want to create change in police departments? Advocate for independent panels to oversee and report publicly on police behavior. Bring the bad cops into the light.

Beware the protests

Americans should protest. Setting aside the hypocrisy between three months of government-forced social distancing and three days of government-supported peaceful protests (wearing masks, of course), people should exercise every freedom to gather, shout and force awareness of racial injustices.

But beware of the consequences. Organized thugs, anarchists and commonplace troublemakers are ready to infiltrate any gathering and wreak havoc in the streets. They do nothing to support the cause, and they severely damage American communities.

Be careful of who you attract when you gather in the streets.

Equality in all organizations

People are demanding changes within American police departments, and many departments could do more to not only mirror, but also engage, the populations they are hired to serve and protect.

Yet racial disparities exist not just in police departments; they exist in all organizations.

How racially diverse is your company? Your school? Your church? Your soccer league? Your social club?

If your organization has not talked about racial diversity, then it probably is not racially diverse. If your company has not reached into minority populations when hiring, then it probably has few minority employees.

Substantive change will not come from new laws — they’ve been passing new laws for generations. It will come from people of all colors and backgrounds working and living together. If your organization has not talked about racial diversity, perhaps it should. It feels like now’s the time.

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Meet our staff
Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.