I am not sure what to think or feel. I can’t.

The brutal death of George Floyd leaves me numb, stunned. As much as watching his death triggers revulsion to my core, I recognize I am not equipped to appreciate systemic racism fully. I am a white male born in the 20th century.

In some ways, I am an unintentional cog in the cruel machinery perpetuating the condition of systemic racism. History proves silence is every bit as dangerous as physical actions against another.

I am from an immigrant home. Unbeknownst to me, my skin color would provide me with opportunities and advantages as I chased my God-given and constitutional rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

In my world, if I kept my nose down, worked hard, told the truth and stayed out of trouble, my efforts would translate into me realizing my dreams.

Our home was wide open and loving. My mother knew she was an outsider and was always welcoming of others. And for us to treat anyone differently was not even on the radar. I never once heard an unkind word uttered about someone’s race, creed or religion. And I thought that was the way of the world outside our home.

But I was wrong.

As an adult, I learned there was a big ugly world running below the surface. Moving around the country, I began to recognize there were hurtful judgments placed on others for unmerited reasons. And the more I learned, the more I read, the more I realized I could never fully appreciate the pain and injustice.

Imagination is a poor translator of the painful reality of systemic racism. To fully understand racism or discrimination, you must be the recipient of the injustice.

I hope and pray the death of George Floyd is a watershed moment for our nation.

In the past several weeks, we’ve seen a black man, Ahmaud Arbery, attacked with vicious intent while running along a street in Georgia. He died, I believe, because of his skin color and the prejudices riding shotgun in the pickup truck tailing him.

And the image of George Floyd’s death cannot be unseen.

Floyd was not in custody for a violent crime. Nor was he considered a threat to society. One does not need to connect too many dots to see a picture of systemic racism come into focus. Being black should not be a crime he paid for with his life.

America is better than this. Humanity is better than this.

We need not let this moment pass without making sure platitudes get turned into real progress.

I may not fully appreciate the pain and indignities others experience, but I know enough to listen to others and act on what I see as wrong.

I am proud of the peaceful demonstrators. It is time for our society to push forward from platitudes to progress. Only then will our nation more fully realize the greatness and opportunities written into both our Constitution and human DNA.

Leonard Woolsey: 409-683-5207; leonard.woolsey@galvnews.com

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(3) comments

Bailey Jones

Your column illustrates the fundamental truth of America - indeed the fundamental truth underlying all of humanity - the tension between what we are and what we imagine ourselves to be. I know people who don't believe systemic racism even exists, much less that it is something that we should radically transform our society to correct.

"America is better than this." No, I'm sorry, America isn't better than this. America is exactly what we see before us. The America that you and I grew up in is exactly what America is. But that America is better than my parents' America. And that America was better than the one my grandparents knew. America has always been a work in progress - an unfulfilled promise.

Americans can solve any problem - but only if we can acknowledge that we have a problem. Many of us are there. Many of us aren't there yet. There will be more murders of young men by the police, more old men shoved to the ground and left bleeding on the pavement, more young women terrorized and tased. And there will be more protests. And more riots. And more progress. Slow, steady, incredibly painful, progress.

Raymond Lewis

"Only then", Mr. Woolsey. Appreciate your thoughts here.

Ray Taft

Police brutality, the use of excessive force, and the militarization of police is happening in mainly Democrat-run cities. In cities like Minneapolis, where Democrats have enjoyed unchallenged control for nearly a half century, still under Democrats nothing changes.

The number of black people murdered every week in cities like Chicago and Baltimore, cities that have been run exclusively by Democrats for decades, should be a national scandal, but nothing is ever done. While countless black people fall, it’s all swept under the rug to protect the liberal Democrat Political Machine.

Democrats openly and aggressively campaign to destroy the education reforms that predominantly black urban areas most desperately need — they need school choice and charter schools.

To Democrats, black people are expendable in their social justice war for power. As Democrats send their own children to private schools, they push inner city blacks into failing schools; as Democrats enjoy private security, they call for defunding the police that protects black Americans from mobs and gangs.

It is in Democrat-run cities where black people are gunned down daily. Gangs and mobs have taken over the streets, and it is the Democrats who do nothing about it. Democrats are all talk and no action as they blame others for their own failures.

Get Democrats out of the way, and then we can move from platitudes to progress.

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