We started out this past weekend with a celebratory and exploratory spirit with the successful launch by SpaceX, the private company that sent its first piloted ship into orbit.
But then we cried. It was not joyful tears.
Among the saddest parts of the recent protests that took place nationwide in response to the death of George Floyd last week is that we helplessly watched parts of the U.S. burn from a distance. They burned with rage, too. The feeling of helplessness and being powerless also came across as we watched Floyd, a native Houstonian, in a video for the world to see after his death. It showed him gasping for air as he told a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on his neck that he could not breathe.
We saw other nations demonstrate as they took to the streets to protest the death of a black man who died in police custody in our country. It was hurtful and embarrassing. The United States is known for its fundamentals of freedom that are part of our everyday lives. And to the rest of the world, it looked like we failed.
For a moment, this past weekend made me think that we could be slipping. Great nations on the decline, it’s been suggested, are not on solid ground spiritually, morally, racially, and economically. We couldn’t help the last one due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but we have started working on it with our gradual reopening of businesses. As for the rest, we have work to do.
Here on the home front watching from a distance, places appear to be self-imploding from what started out as peaceful protests that turned into violence with burning, looting and the wanton disregard for civility. I saw respectable communities self-implode with violence that turned inward. Texas was among the 20-plus states requiring activation of the National Guard this past weekend to help control the growing unrest from protests over Floyd’s death. Not in Fort Bend County, but neighboring Houston reportedly had a few such incidents that started peacefully, but then its downtown was damaged.
What does this tell us? That the racial divide has not yet been quashed in parts of our societal infrastructure.
As a big plus in Fort Bend, we enjoy our most ethnically diverse status in the nation and we get along considerately among our somewhat equal parts – Asian, Latino, African-American and Anglo, the four groups reported in Rice University’s most-diverse-in-the-nation report.
But elsewhere, in the words of Rodney King, “Why can’t we all just get along?” King, a black man who lived in Los Angeles, was repeatedly beaten by police more than 25 years ago as other officers watched. The incident led to riots of about the same magnitude experienced recently due to outrage resulting from the acquittal of the police officers charged with using excessive force.
So, where does that leave us today? In Fort Bend, we can’t live on reputation alone. Yes, we are the most ethnically diverse county in the nation, but do we have what is called underlying “structural racism,” i.e. wealth, income, employment, criminal justice, political power and/or education disparities in our Fort Bend communities?
As we look around and consider who our local leaders are in public and private institutions, our reality shows a decent representation with cohesion as its framework. We live, work, play and shop (borrowing First Colony’s motto) together. And we also expect our taxpayer dollars to support the general public’s safety from dangers with a workforce that includes police, EMS and transportation personnel, our public safety sector.
But we need to remain vigilant because the responsibility for our safety is in their power and to a certain extent also in ours. These positions in their truest sense are essential as is their oversight, neither of which should be taken for granted.
For the parts of our faulty systems, we all share the blame. We need to call out and fix what is broken. Then we can move forward in a united way, much as in the name of our country – the United States.