Friday, 05 June 2020 15:25

COLUMN: Change needs to come for country's future

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As a white person in this country, it is difficult to truly understand what persons of color face daily. I am sharing my thoughts on the world today. Before I shared this, I was able to have a person of color (who I only recently friended) look it over and offer their thoughts.

The reason? I don't want my feelings to be dismissed because "they don't go far enough," "you vote Republican," or whatever.

To create change, we need to be pulling in the same direction and real progress can be made.

It has been more than a week since the senseless murder of George Floyd at the hands of a now former Minneapolis police officer while three of his fellow officers stood by and watched the life be drained from Floyd

The video and the lack of caring by these men who were paid to protect and serve all citizens showed us there is a great amount of progress that needs to happen in this country. The cold and callus act by Derek Chauvin may finally serve as the wake-up call we all needed to come together and address the issues most of us have looked the other way on or just attempted to sweep under the rug.

It sickens me to know people of color in this country face the reality of not returning home to their friends and family simply because of the color of their skin.

A million thoughts cross my mind when I think of events in my life and I now think what could have happened if something had gone differently.

For example, I remember having basketball practice in high school at night and when it was over, my African American teammates would walk to the bus stop and wait for public transit to take them back home. The high school was in a majority white neighborhood and, thankfully, seeing a handful of African Americans grouped together at the bus stop didn't raise a red flag. But now I wonder, what could have happened if one of the homeowners or someone would have called the Louisville Police Department. Would one of my teammates Tim Allen, Derek Bowen, Fred Wright or any of the others have been shot simply because the officer confused a set of keys, a pen or pencil for a weapon?

I also think about the hundreds of athletes and coaches I have been fortunate to cover during my career in journalism.When I worked at the Richmond County Daily Journal, I had the opportunity to work closely with Dannell Ellerbe, who played with the Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles. As a professional athlete, Ellerbe was as physically fit as a person could be and I fear what could happen to him if a police officer felt threatened by this gentle giant.

The same thoughts go through my mind for the numerous fraternity brothers from the Eta Zeta Chapter of Pi Kappa Phi at Queens who are also people of color. Will today or tomorrow be the day they don't return home because of the color of their skin?

I am tired of living in a world like this. I have a feeling my fraternity "little brother," the late Dave Scott, a former Indiana State Trooper, would also be sick to live in a world like this knowing fellow police officers are killing unarmed people of color in the world.

Floyd's death isn't the only one that made me sick this year. Two others — Ahmaud Arbery and Breona Taylor — left me searching for answers.

Arbery was gunned down by three white men simply for jogging. There was a video and there was little to discuss as to what occurred between Arbery and the three individuals. But it took several months and the video to become viral for charges to be filed and those individuals to be arrested and charged with murder. And people wonder why our judicial system is broken.

Taylor's death made my hometown police look bad. Very bad. Things didn't get better as Taylor's boyfriend was facing charges when he was attempting to defend his house from what he thought were intruders because the police didn't identify themselves.

Who can blame thousands of people taking to the street to scream and yell for things to change? Progress will be made, it may not be overnight and as soon as we all hope it will come, but it will come.

It has to.

I have to be better than I was yesterday. We all do. Not just for ourselves, but our neighbors and this country's future.

Shawn Stinson is editor of the Pendleton Times in West Virginia. He was a Richmond County resident for eight years, covering regional sports and serving as editor of the sports and news departments at several newspapers in the Sandhills.