We asked, you responded – Part Five

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  • Some of the responses The George-Anne received. 

Andy Cole

STATESBORO — On May 29, The George-Anne sent out a Google form to the Georgia Southern campus community for your thoughts. We asked, “What are your thoughts on the recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd?”

Since then, we have received nearly 120 responses from students, faculty, staff and university leadership.

This is the fifth installment in a series of articles that will include the comments we receive. All quotes listed below are copied directly from the response forms. Each part will include 20 responses.

We encourage students, faculty, staff and university leadership to continue to send their thoughts about recent events through the Google form. A Georgia Southern University email address is required to access the form.

Part Five

It’s disturbing, and I mourn for them and their families. I speak their names and unfortunately have to add Breonna Taylor and Tony McDade’s name to the list in the question because their lives were taken due to a system of racial injustice and racism in this county. #BlackLivesMatter #BlackTransLivesMatter”

Both have left me emotionally and mentally drained. It’s difficult to focus, hard to put my “best face forward”, and impossible to have only one reaction. I am thankful, yet hurt. Proud, but helpless. Appreciative, but restless.”

I have mixed emotions. I feel sad, angry and disappointed because his death was unnecessary. I have two young African american boys of my own who I choose to raise up in the ammunition of the Lord. I teach them to respect all law enforcement no matter their race or gender but perceptions and statistics conflict my teachings due to the numerous shootings of unarmed African Americans. Believe it or not Community response, Institutional response, National response and Global response evokes my emotions stated previously on a daily basics. My thoughts don’t just extend from the death Ahmaud Arbery but Eric Garner, Ezell Ford, Michelle Cusseaux, Tanisha Anderson, Tamir Rice, Natasha McKenna, Bettie Jones, Philando Castile, Botham Jean, Eric Reason, George Floyd and many others who died this year 2020.”

It’s a terrible thing that there is still so much hate in the heart of man that results in death or mistreatment. Death and mistreatment by those in power is especially egregious and undermines the whole idea of protection from those who are sworn to protect and serve. We must remember that hatred and ignorance is not defined by skin color but the color of a persons spirit and soul. There is no race on earth that has not had someone represent it in an evil fashion. People need Jesus, no matter what color their skin.”

Ahmaud and Georges’ death was the result of a murderer. Words nor thoughts can truly describe the hurt that I feel today. My heartfelt condolences are for the families of Ahmaud and George.”

Terrible tragedies with no legitimate excuse. People of all races and cultural backgrounds can agree that these were both crimes against humanity.

I believe the same is true as it relates to peaceful demonstrations that have become so violent and destructive. The actions of rioters only serves to harm many more innocent people. This causes further divide where we need healing and reform. We need to follow the example of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who accomplished so much through peaceful protest, and brought us together as a people. He gave his life to this cause.”

I think the recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd are terrifying reminders of just how little progress America has made in the last seventy years. There are so many issues tied up in these cases it is difficult to unpack all of it. But first let me address the way conversation happens around crimes against black people and people of color, and even the way conversation happens against the Black Lives Matter movement. It is not a debate about whether deadly force was used or not. It’s not a debate about how far a citizen can go in performing a citizen’s arrest. The conversation is not at all around the actual crimes or perpetrators of the crimes or the people who ultimately murdered a black person. The conversation is about what did that black person (or person of color, because I want to be clear I think this is true for anyone who isn’t white) do to deserve this? Did they commit a crime? Were they being suspicious? What could that person of color have done to change the situation? And this type of rhetoric puts the onus and blame completely on the shoulders of the victim. It basically becomes a conversation of how deserving was that person of color to live or die. And the answer should be obvious. It should be so very clear that every person, and I do mean every person, has a strong and very basic right to life. Unfortunately, when it comes to persons of color, it seems that conversation still needs to be held. Which is why the “All Lives Matter” response is so misguided. Of course all lives matter, but apparently we don’t typically include Black Lives in that summation. And so we have to remind people that Black Lives Matter. Like calling attention to a broken bone in your body. Of course you want all your bones taken care of, but right now, this broken bone needs more attention. It needs to be supported and given more focus than other bones until it is as strong as any other bone (Analogy taken from a comic by Loryn Brantz and @Bdell1014). It should be noted that this type of rhetoric, where the focus is on the victim proving that they were a victim and not complicit in the crimes against them, is repeated often in our society when we are more interested in protecting the perpetrator than the victim. Take, for example, rape cases where the question is “What was she wearing?” Or the detention of Latinx persons when the question is “Were they legal?” The presumption in all of these cases is that the victim did something to deserve what happened to them. And that is never true, especially when the conversation is about the actions of our US Police Force. The history of the police force’s difficulty in executing a reasonable amount of force to detain citizens and even determining when a situation calls for the detention of a person is mired in poor choices and, frankly, racism. The Georgia Public Safety Training Center Instruction Services Division issued a Program of Instruction in February 2017 on the Use of Force and De-escalation Options for Gaining Compliance. This published course online is only a guidelines for instructors, not a fully documented course, so it is impossible to know exactly how it is utilized. But one aspect of this course did catch my attention. In the Topical Outline, part I.B.1 Under “Constitutional Standards: Force” three cases are mentioned. The first is Graham v. Connor. This case is about a suit being brought against the police for an incident occurring in 1984. Dethorne Graham, a black man who was diabetic, had his friend drive him to a convenience store for an orange juice to counteract his insulin. In the store the line was long and slow and if you know someone with diabetes, you know that an insulin reaction can cause a person to deteriorate quickly. So Graham did what anyone would do. He left quickly and asked his friend to drive him to another friend’s house where he might get some juice. This incident, by all rights, should have been a completely normal, if slightly worrisome, day in Mr. Graham’s life. Instead, Mr. Graham was put into handcuffs, while unconscious from high insulin levels, placed face-down on the sidewalk and the hood of the police car. He was denied both sugar suggested by his friend and orange juice, which another friend brought to the scene. He was detained until the police were able to determine that nothing, NOTHING, had happened in the convenience store. Is this a case where police suspicion of black men was a clear racial profiling that lead to the illegal detainment of private citizens and the denial of life-saving medical treatment? Not in the eyes of the supreme court. It was ruled that the officers had used reasonable force and were fully absolved of any wrongdoing. If this is the case being used to discuss the constitutional standards of force, and again I don’t know how that conversation actually happens in the classroom, then our police force is clearly missing a step in learning how to handle stressful circumstances and suspicious people. Being a police officer is a hard job and I don’t think anyone is contesting that. But it’s a job you just aren’t allowed to be bad at. Maybe we need more money. Maybe we need more training. Those are questions for the police to figure out and implement. What I do know, is that we as a society need to grow from our place in the 80s and say that assaulting a diabetic black man in a medical emergency isn’t okay. And we need to grow from our place in 1999 where another Black Man, Amadou Diallo, was shot 42 times in his own doorway by police and say it isn’t okay. But first and foremost now we, society and especially white society, need to say that it is enough. It is seventy years enough. It is a hundred years enough. We have asked the African American community to defend their right to live unabused in our society since the abolishment of slavery. Is 157 years enough for us to stop seeing people of color as other and start seeing them as human? As fellow citizens? As equal members of our society with just as much right to live as anyone else? Yes. More than yes. Enough is enough.”

I think they are tremendously gross acts of cold blooded murder that happened because of a racially charged system that fails to serve people that arent white. These two men were doing nothing wrong, but got profiled the second an officer laid their eyes on them. This brutality in America must stop. There is no reason for this outright racism in 2020. When we were all children we dreamed of 2020 being filled with flying cars and amazing technology. But instead its filled with hate and disgrace. Racism is the true plague and its been infecting America for centuries. Its time for it to end. Its time for change.”

Much like the mass shootings (going all the way back to Columbine), it will be a tragic shame if these deaths result in little to no change in societal structure and policy, making the murdering of many amount to only suffering. If that is the case, we truly are a callous nation.”

Sad. Angry. Hurt. Empathetic. Concerned. Frustrated. Without video, I fear those involved would not be held accountable to the extent needed.”

This is not news. This is a systemic injustice presented in full view of the public. We get to watch the police of a country that was built by Black bodies murder civilians in cold blood. This is not news – this is a daily fight to keep Black people alive. This is about your friends, your neighbors, your sisters and brothers. This is about fighting to end brutality and corruption in a system that is obligated to protect their people. We want answers, and not a single cop’s arrest: we want systemic change.”

There is no excuse. All lives matter means nothing until all lives matter EQUALLY. And right now, my life as a white female seems to matter a whole lot more to some people than the lives of my black peers. So until we see real change and REAL EQUALITY: black. lives. matter.”

They are horrific, but not surprising. They are the response of 400 years of structural racism, that has defined, subconsciously and consciously, ‘black’ as criminal, ‘Black’ as other, black as less then. These cultural preconceptions mean the space through which black bodies move, which they are allowed to operate, are constrained, and controlled, and dominated by whites, by power structures, by politics and by law enforcement. Segregation is still a mental and cultural framework. Arbery was punished for running while black in white neighborhood. Floyd was assumed guilty based on skin tone alone, and his color dictated his treatment.

“Certain conditions continue to exist in our society, which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality and humanity. And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention”

–Martin Luther King”

It is impossible to convey all of my “thoughts on the recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd”, they are many and varied. Abuse of police and judicial power is nothing new in this country. Since the Department of Homeland Security was created our local police departments have been heavily funded resulting in a police force that is armed for war as opposed to community policing. I am angry and saddened that so many innocent young black men and women have been killed at the hands of our municipal police, our OWN government. Why are we not ALL outraged? I am proud of our young African American students who organized and led a peaceful protest march yesterday on campus. So many of these students offered heart felt expressions of the racism they face on a daily basis including dehumanization and living in the fear of murder by a police officer. All this in a country that claims “liberty and justice for all”.”

It’s a shame that this is still occurring nearly 100 years after the Niagara Conference and other civil rights initiatives.”

My thoughts are scattered regarding these unnecessary and unjustified killings of these two Black men. I am angry and enraged. However, I am not at all surprised as this has become the norm when it comes to Black men and their interactions with racists individuals. These deaths only serve as additional evidence of the disease of racism and systematic oppression that plagues this country and has been for 400 years. I fear for the lives of the men in my family and my male friends because I do not know if they will be next. There are some deeply rooted issues that continue to harm this country that stem from systematic racism and White Supremacy. Those two things are what killed those Men. Those two issues are what continue to divide this nation and put innocent lives at risk everyday. It is because of those two horrific ideals that renders America unsafe for Black people.”

They were completely unwarranted and acts of racism.”

Its fucked. Police are targeting people of color at a rate that is disgusting and there needs to be change and justice.”

Violent, Uncivilized, and an unnecessary death. All based on the color of his skin.”

Andy Cole, Managing Editor for News Coverage, bc14713@georgiasouthern.edu