Like many of you processing the news of George Floyd’s murder, I have felt a range of emotions from disbelief to anger. Sadly, this is not about George Floyd’s senseless and most certainly avoidable death. The issue is changing the systemic racism and prejudice that exists in our country. It is long overdue. 400 years overdue, in fact. It is time to do better, it is time we take a large step towards quality and justice for all Americans.

As a white man I can never say I fully understand the experiences and fears that people of color live with in this country every day. I have been fortunate enough to acquaint myself with people from different backgrounds, races, religions, and beliefs. These acquaintances have helped me develop and broaden my understanding of others’ perspectives and struggles.

I ask you to truly put yourself in the shoes of a black person in America. Were your grandparents homeowners? Were you born into a mid/upper class family? One thing I know for sure is my parents never had to worry about me growing up whether I was going to come home or not or if I was going to get pulled over if I had to go anywhere.

I do not condone the riots whatsoever. I understand the violence twists the narrative of wanting to join a movement. The protests I am entirely fine with. To that point, why do we have to determine what type of protest is correct? Minneapolis is currently the center of America. We have to reflect on the WHY these things are happening. I think many people empathize with the situation. We cannot let the riots and looting overshadow the core issue and discussion that must occur. We have too many people pointing fingers of blame, painting the opposite side with an awfully broad brush. Our anger and terms of bitterness are outweighing logic and reason. Distrust and prejudice over love and respect.

When people say “empathy stops when the looting begins” is just a poor mentality to take. By doing so, you ignore the core of the conversation. I don’t see or hear of many people complaining of the protestors, but the looters and rioters ruin it all. There is a significant difference in protestors and all of these clowns acting like animals. I have heard the term "violence never solves anything." Sure, when is the last time the United States peacefully protested in the Middle East?

Back to my point of why this conversation needs to happen. As white people, we cannot ever relate to having the history of slavery, lynchings, racism, and living every day in fear. For hundreds of years! Remember when Colin Kaepernick led the charge of pro athletes kneeling or raising a first during the National Anthem? When he protested against police brutality and mistreatment to people of color? Peacefully I may add. Yeah, maybe he had a point. Shortly after his first knee, Kaepernick said he was against systematic oppression, “Police violence is just one of the symptoms of that oppression.” Kaepernick continued, “for me, that is something that needs to be addressed, but it’s not the whole issue.” Kaepernick wanted to help create change and help empower others. Kaepernick wanted to support those doing the work and wanted people who were not, to get involved and join the efforts to make change. Instead, Kaepernick was deemed un-American, a racist towards whites, “lack of patriotism”, he was told he hated America, Many Americans stood against his peaceful, kneeling protest with their extreme patriotism instead of acknowledging the bigger issue. He used his platform by silently, peacefully kneeling during the national anthem because young black men are facing police brutality at alarming rates. We took it offensive and made it a bigger deal than the lives he was protesting. So if you were outraged at this, why do you think a peaceful protest will help now? Hope you didn't burn your Nike's after the company supported him.

I know this will not be the last time a black man becomes a hashtag or the last time there will be protests all over America, but we must open our eyes and stop justifying what we choose to see. Racism thrives in America. If we continue to turn a blind eye towards it, we are part of the problem. The death of George Floyd is not an isolated incident, racism is engrained in society and we seem incapable of change. We must change that. It must change.

Over 50 years ago Martin Luther King said, “In the final analysis a riot is the language of the unheard, and what is is that America has failed to hear?” Over 50 years later, here we are. I pray we can all respect one another no matter the color of our skin, political party, gender, etc. I pray someday we can all live in a world where we are treated equally with honor, dignity, and respect. In these trying times, please show compassion and empathy and reach your hand out to others because it is times like these where we reflect and cherish those characteristics the most.