The hijacking of an American tragedy

The death of George Floyd was — and is — a bona fide reason for marching in the streets. But enter the Law of Unintended Consequences.

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Protestors demonstrate against the death of George Floyd at the U.S. Capitol on June 3, 2020.

Mandel Ngan/AFP

Have you ever started out to do something in a principled manner, only to have it go all wrong? Only to accomplish the opposite of what was intended?

Well, Black Lives Matter and all those who want to avenge the murder of George Floyd peacefully just did. Despite their best intentions, that is what happened this past weekend.

The alleged murder of Mr. Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer was — and is — a bona fide cause for marching in the streets. Clearly, change is needed.

But enter the Law of Unintended Consequences. Little did the organizers of the marches, as well as the initial participants, realize that there were three other sources of intense interest in what they were doing. And these other influences took over the marches and converted them into events of thuggery, looting and criminality. These insidious forces are:

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(1) The anti-fascists (antifa), radicals on the far left who favor anarchy instead of our corporatocracy;

(2) The Q Anon and Boogaloo Bois, radicals on the far right who favor a civil war for white nationalists, and

(3) The looters, who care more about merchandise for themselves than justice for George Floyd.

These influences desire to destabilize our democratic society or simply greedy and willing to break the law.

To make matters worse, President Donald Trump and his sycophants feed off the rioting and violence. Trump insinuates via Twitter that all the marchers are radical leftists, thugs and criminals and that looting should be met with shooting from National Guard or federal troops.

Trump hopes to convince voters that he is a “law and order” president who will somehow protect them from what he calls BLM leftist “thugs.” Evidence of the success of Trump’s law-and-order strategy can be seen in reports that gun sales have skyrocketed.

An American tragedy, followed by the best of intentions, has produced another American tragedy. When will we learn?

Ed Bryant, Evanston

NFL must admit wronging Kaepernick

In 2016, when Colin Kaepernick took a knee rather than stand for a pregame playing of the national anthem to silently protest the prejudicial treatment of young black men by the police, Donald Trump and commissioner of the National Football League, Roger Goodell, mischaracterized his actions as unpatriotic or worse.

Though Kaepernick was merely exercising his First Amendment right to freedom of speech, many football fans reflexively but mistakenly agreed with Trump and Goodell. Unfairly blackballed, this ended Kaepernick’s otherwise stellar football career.

Sadly, it has taken a video gone viral to show in extremis exactly what Kaepernick was trying to expose. We saw the gratuitous suffocation of George Floyd by uniformed Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, who since has been charged with third-degree murder.

Trump is trying his best to mischaracterize coast-to-coast demonstrations against police brutality as mere hooliganism, but we have yet to hear from Goodell or any of the NFL team owners who rushed to agree with Trump.

But it seems reality has finally hit home — and it indisputably contradicted them. The stance they took has been disgraced by the clear daily reality faced even by some of the black players on their teams, as all can now see. Their deafening silence is appalling. It remains a disgrace to the sport of football. 

Ted Z. Manuel, Hyde Park

Two knees to pray

Colin Kaepernick took a knee, peacefully. Derek Chauvin used a knee, unconscionably. Time to get down on both knees and pray for serious reform and lasting harmony.

Bill McLean, Palatine

How to defend Chicago

In her speech Tuesday evening, Mayor Lori Lightfoot claimed to love her adopted city of Chicago 30 years after her arrival. Many of us who were born, raised, work and still live here also love our city. And that is why we can’t stand by and watch it be destroyed by anybody no matter what the reason or righteous indignation.

True love is demonstrated through action, not words. Mayor Lightfoot, you had a duty to show your love by demanding that our city be defended and protected. You abdicated that responsibility.

Cathleen Bylina, Cleering

Talking racism with trained facilitators

White Chicagoans, I want to invite you to a conversation just for you: A racial healing circle for white people. It’s time for you to come together and talk about racism with the help of trained facilitators. Let’s face it: You’re not doing so well making this happen on your own. 

Let me give some background on why this must happen now. 

For years, black, brown and Native American Chicagoans have made policy recommendations to decrease the wealth and death gaps in our communities. Most have been ignored — and inequity has grown over the past 30 years. The COVID-19 pandemic reveals how vulnerable these communities are to death, and how inept public and economic policies are to protect them.

But it’s the persistent virus of RACISM-1619 that our city and nation are forced to reckon with  — a virus we all suffer from, caused by institutionalization of white supremacy. The year 1619 was when a ship carrying enslaved people first arrived in mainland North America.

Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation of Greater Chicago offers Racial Healing Circles to show white Chicagoans how to confront privilege by understanding their investment in the current system, and how to actively practice anti-racist behavior to support people of color. We will also identify specific policies that will increase resources for black, brown and Native people, but may require whites to sacrifice privilege.

In essence, the challenge to white civic leaders is to lead with their values and make real  commitments to match the rhetoric shared in their foundations, corporations and boards. This is the time to lead with the heart and have the courage to support public policies and corporate practices that increase health and wealth for the majority of Chicagoans. 

We are all watching to see how you respond to the virus that keeps people of color at the bottom of a racial hierarchy.

Black, brown and Native American people will continue to advocate and fight for just policies for us all. White people need to confront their allegiance to a social and economic system that benefits them to the detriment of us all. 

Jose Rico, director of Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Greater Chicago
Woods Fund

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