To say there has been a lot of controversy, conflict and unrest over the past week would be the understatement of the year.

The violence that has erupted across the country is, unfortunately, not a new occurrence. Unwarranted brutality and violence toward the black citizens of our nation began when they first became enslaved and were forced into lives that were riddled with cruelty, injustice and sickening forms of physical abuse.

Racial riots began as early as 1866 in Memphis, Tennessee, during the early stages of Reconstruction.

To this day, the KKK still has an active presence, despite their supposed declining long term trend of people being associated with the nefarious organization. I can’t help but wonder if their ‘declining membership’ hasn’t just been replaced by the skinheads and neo-nazis of the world. In fact, I’ve read articles indicating that the white number of active hate groups in the US has reached a 20-year high.

From my perspective, the hashtags and signs that say #alllivesmatter and #bluelives matter are missing the point. Yes, all lives matter and I have a deep respect for the officers in our communities who genuinely are in the police force because they want to serve and protect. I believe, they minimize the current issue at hand, the violence toward black members of our communities.

There is no denying that the violent, brutal discrimination against African Americans in the US is egregious. The most recent example is the murder of George Floyd – but it’s far from the only one.

A little over a year ago, I was mugged at gunpoint in Center City Philadelphia. I was with my youngest son and one of my best friends. A phrase I never thought I’d hear myself say, is, “He held a gun to my head.”

The criminals happened to be three young black men.

I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t have an effect on me and the way I react when I see young black men wearing hooded sweatshirts and avoiding eye contact, especially at night. I also know that if it had been three young men of any race, I would have experienced the same reactions. To be honest, I’ve grown to have a very wary response to any young man who looks like he’s up to no good. I think that’s pretty human.

I am rational enough to know that my reaction to the situation is not a reflection of how I feel about the black population of our country. It’s a reaction to the situation I experienced.

As one of my close friends says, “There are bad eggs in every basket. It doesn’t matter what color they are.”

Let’s stop focusing on the bad eggs and turn our attention to what the systemic issues are. We have a fundamental problem with racism and violence and for whatever reason, many people seem to generalize and lump people together by their ethnic origins.

Have you seen the video of George Floyd’s brother praying and pleading with people to honor his brother’s death with dignity, not violence? It’s powerful.

All of us need to educate ourselves about the culture and history of those that are different from us. I definitely have not done enough of this, but plan to expand my education beyond a visit to the Harriet Tubman Museum. (which, was remarkably insightful)

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