In memory of James Byrd Jr

In memory of James Byrd Jr, a black man killed by dragging

James Byrd Jr
I woke up this morning to messages from several friends in NZ alarmed over the current situation in the US (rioting and looting after the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Shauvin) and checking to see if we were safe.

So, yes, it's peaceful and quiet in our little piece of American suburbia and we are safe and sound. Thanks for your concern.

And yes, there is lots to be done to heal America, and racism is a HUGE problem with potentially deadly consequences for black Americans.

Unfortunately it's not new. Remember James Byrd? That horrific lynching by dragging a black man hitched by his feet to the back of a pickup truck happened in 1998, my second year in the US. It was something that shocked me to the core and came just a few months before Matthew Shepard was cruelly murdered. Unfortunately much of America's history is written in blood, but let's not view America just through a narrow lens; take time to view it through a colorful kaleidoscope. There's much more good than bad about America, and despite the times we are going through, there are way more good Americans than bad.

So I ask everyone to remember that what you see on TV currently of "riots and looting" is taken with a small lens. Most people who are protesting are doing so with just cause and anger, but peacefully. That a few are taking to violence, which I am against 100% and from whichever political wing they come from, can unfortunately be so easily exploited for political advantage if we extrapolate and generalize what we are shown through the small lens as being representative of the greater number of peaceful protesters.

If you have never heard it before, there is an old saying in journalism "If it bleeds, it leads". In other words, the most violent and negative news will get priority. So right now the looting gets reported, not the peaceful protests.

Again, the problem with racism in America is large and entrenched, but can and is being addressed. I've seen that in my time here. But obviously there's still a whole lot of it out there. I believe that a majority of Americans understand the injustice of racism and want to do something about it, and have done something about it over the years. If every one of us challenges the racism that exists in us all then we can get to a better and more just place.

But please, at this time and in this matter be prepared for the situation to be exploited by some, both rioters and politicians. At this time we need cool heads and good leadership, which we unfortunately cannot expect from our national leaders. Do not be hoodwinked by the Twitterer in Chief who only knows how to incite, not unite. To provoke, not to lead. To raise the temperature, not to lower it. To exploit a time that demands justice for his own political ends.


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