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Editorial: Say it, white people: black lives matter

Black lives matter.

There. I said it.

If you’re white, you should say it, too. Out loud. Write it down and put it on your refrigerator. Get a bumper sticker. Get a tattoo. Whatever, just say it.

That’s a good first step in rooting out racism in our lives. Like it or not, most of us have some type of racist beliefs or upbringing — regardless of our race. It’s up to us to overcome those prejudices. It isn’t easy, but we can do it. One step at a time, they say.

It’s not hard for me to say that black lives matter. But for some people — way too many white people — just hearing those words causes them to cringe. It shouldn’t, because black lives matter just as much as those of any other race. Just as much. Not more, not less. Just as much.

The unrest our country has experienced since the death of George Floyd at the hands (or knee) of a Minneapolis police officer has been excruciating for all.

It’s hard for me to write about it because I’m white. I didn’t grow up feeling privileged, but those privileges of just being white were there. I got invited to birthday parties of classmates. I could walk into any business I wanted without extra glares. I could walk around in those businesses without the owner watching my every move. I could get stopped by the police without the fear of being accused of something I didn’t do. I’ve run all over this county at all times of the day and night, and only once was I questioned by police. I was jogging in cold weather, with a face mask on. The officer asked me what I was doing and I said running. His window was up and he was gone before I got the words out. I wonder that if I had been black, would it have turned out differently?

I can’t imagine being apprehensive about something as simple as just walking down the street. Heck, on vacations to different cities, I make it a point to walk around the downtown area, sometimes into neighborhoods. I’ve never had an issue because of my race. My wife worries, but unlike black people, I had privilege. There wasn’t a bull’s eye on my back — a bull’s eye I bet many black men feel they have when walking in new neighborhoods.

As a society, we’re doing a terrible job with this race thing, with equality and justice for all, that all men are created equal. Even some Davie High students took to social media, recreating the George Floyd scene and then posting a video onto social media.

That in itself should be our wakeup call. Our young people are prejudiced. Where do they learn such behaviors? From us.

Our country has done a great job in creating laws so that people are treated equally. But laws don’t change hearts. Laws aren’t always obeyed.

Much of the criticism recently has been centered around law enforcement and the court system, for good reason. It seems that blacks are more often treated violently for crimes they didn’t commit, or too violently for the crimes they did commit, such as it was in the George Floyd incident. When they go to court — whether it be because they’re black or possibly poor and can’t afford the best lawyer — they get stiffer penalties.

Being a law enforcement officer isn’t easy, either, and people don’t always act as they want to in pressure situations. But our police chiefs and sheriffs have to do a better job of weeding out the bad apples. I know that can become even more difficult in those areas where unions represent police. I hate to say it, but a good place to start would be for the chiefs of the world to let their officers know what behavior is expected on and off the job, and then check their social media accounts, often. Most people with racist tendencies (We’ve all seen them), for some reason aren’t afraid to let their opinions be known on social media. Don’t slap their hands when you notice such behaviors. Get rid of them.

On the other hand, we have to remember that probably 99.9% of officers are there to serve and protect everybody. Just as we shouldn’t assume a black person is up to no good, we shouldn’t think a police officer is bad just because they’re a police officer. Or white.

Yes, we have a race relations problem in this country — one that can’t be solved with boards and committees, with prayers and concerns.

It’s going to take us all — white, black and everything in between — to start respecting each other for who we are.

We all matter.

Mike Barnhardt is editor of the Davie County Enterprise Record.