As COVID-19 made a tsunami-style landfall upon humanity, on its heels came cries of injustice just as global and unprecedented. Those who cry for justice demand their voices to be heard.
My goal as a writer typically is not to tell you what to believe. As I have done on other hotly debated issues/concerns, I make an effort to unravel what may be left in the dark and bring it to the table, then, let you as the reader decide on what these issues mean to you.
In my community, Champaign County, in all my years of living, this was the first time that I have seen protests such as in the wake of the George Floyd experience. One Sunday, the shopping mall that I had been riding by suffered from looting and break-ins just hours afterwards. As my siblings and I watched the events unfold from Facebook livestreams, a curfew was announced.
My brother was scheduled to go into work that night. But was it safe to go to work? Or because of the curfew, should he stay in? He is a college student who was sent home due to COVID-19 and decided to get a job in town. He’s had jobs before, but this was the first time something of this nature surfaced: does one go to work during a city curfew? He asked me and my sisters to ask our managers about it. Due to time constraints, I ended up calling the non-emergency police department number, upon which I was assured that it was safe to go to work.
My brother goes to work; he gets there early as usual, and as he arrives to the work area, the manager on duty asks him, “How is everything going on out there?” They talk about the looting; and as time goes by, a few employees trickle in. The manager asks the same question to each of them. It is becoming apparent that, perhaps, more people than my brother were hesitant to come to work that night. My brother recalls that the manager shows some form of anxiety as the shift is about to commence without enough workers to handle the workload.
I’ve worked with this manager. He cares about his job and employees. It’s the same manager who was sitting down in a circle of employees holding up a carry-out box of food while they all shared a rejuvenating snack at the end of their shift. This was also the manager that I had asked help from regarding changes in the custody of my retirement plan. At the end of the work shift that particular day, he walked me and another person to the office to help us gain the items we’d requested.
As soon as he walks into the office and we follow him, the people in the room caused a stir for whatever reason. He was able to get the document the one guy asked for, but my request took a little bit more time. The manager asked me to have a seat while he went into one of the back-office rooms.
When he came out, he took a seat next to me and explained what he could about the process. He noticed that his manager was also in the room, and he employed him for his help with my request. They both gave me the knowledge that they could. The manager also showed me the website that I needed to begin the process.
You’ve seen this manager before: A Black male, height approx. 6’1”, tattoos seared on his neck with a voice that could command an army brigade and a facial expression that begs the question, “Why do you look upset?” (I’ve heard these comments made in reference to him more than once). You’ve ever heard the description, “Not someone you would want to meet in an alley;” that would be the perfect stereotype to describe him. Or Black people might say he looks like “the kind of guy cops would target.” Why? Stereotypes.
Stereotypes fuel the fallacy of judging a book by its cover. It’s hurtful to each person’s livelihood and well-being when we judge someone’s heart by preconceived notions, ideas that perhaps have been filtered through dirty lenses of prejudice and ignorance inherited by biased media and casual conversations. In essence, it hurts the individual when we are scared of them before we’ve even had a chance to know what kind of person they are, and what character traits they have.
I challenge, not law-makers, but the individual citizens; let’s do our part in racial reconciliation and equality. We can start by no longer carrying discriminatory stereotypes around the living room table. We can start by integrating our family activities in multicultural settings so that we are no longer scared of those we do not know on all sides of the racial discourse.
If we believe that the God who made one skin color, in His creative genius and authority created other shades and different cultures that think, act and look differently than ourselves, let’s learn to embrace it. May we learn and grow together as one human race under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.
Quote for the month: “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Precious Angel Kelly, a native of Rantoul, writes a Christian-based monthly column. She welcomes correspondence at email@example.com