Writing Nonfiction Books and Novels on the American Experience since 1991
Note to My Readers: A Special Statement on the Death of George Floyd
The murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer has enraged the world, and rightly so. Abuse of Black persons by law enforcement is not new, however. It is entrenched. And it is unacceptable. That is not to say that all American police officers are guilty of mistreating Black persons. I suspect, and hope, that only a small percentage of police officers are capable of carrying out racist violence. They must be held accountable. Even better, we need to prevent them from becoming officers of the law. More common than outright violence, probably, is the subconscious bias that infects many white Americans, including some of the police. There is a lack of understanding among white persons of the extent of institutionalized racism and the damage it has done. When my white ancestors came to America, they were able to "pull themselves up by their bootstraps," but make no mistake, this would have been all but impossible had they been Black. The Black experience is entirely different. There should be more study in public schools of Jim Crow laws and how they blocked any attempts at progress by Black citizens. The fact is, no one can pull themselves up by their bootstraps when the path has been blocked every step of the way. It is an unreasonable expectation. It is unfair. Again, referring to my own ancestors, upon their arrival in America, they were in a position, as white people, to make rapid progress. That is not to say it was easy. They worked extremely hard, saved, and sacrificed. But they were free to try. Being white means being given the benefit of the doubt. It means getting that loan, buying a house in a neighborhood with good schools for your kids. It means having access to opportunity. White people have an advantage, and the first thing we need to do is recognize that. Simply put, we need to put ourselves in others' shoes. One has to be motivated to do that, and have the ability to feel empathy. That is why progress has been slow. However, the fact that prejudice is taught gives me some hope for the future. We can educate ourselves. We can listen. It is our duty to do so.
Note to My Readers: Thoughts on the Coronavirus Pandemic
My mother never knew her grandmothers. Before she was born, they had both died in the 1918 flu pandemic, a few days apart in the same small town. For this reason, the possibility of a pandemic never seemed unimaginable to me. I grew up with the knowledge that pandemics can and do happen. And, here we are in 2020 grappling with Covid-19. On March 25, my mother died of pneumonia, and while we were told the cause was not Covid-19, I now have my doubts. Whether or not she had it, Covid-19 had an enormous impact. My siblings and I were not able to be with her in the days before she died or at the time of her death. We take solace in the fact that a nurse was with her. Again because of Covid-19, we were not able to hold a proper funeral for her. She wanted her ashes interred at the grave of our father, a World War II veteran who died in 2016. We are stuck in a holding pattern of grief for our mother. No one knows much about Covid-19 yet. My instinct, therefore, is to be cautious. The only actions that seem to slow the spread of the virus are social distancing and wearing masks. I wear a mask each time I go out of my home. I don't consider it a burden. I see it as my civic duty. Americans have been getting mixed-messages about Covid-19 since it first arrived in our country. If you don't trust the media or the government, perhaps you could ask your doctor for his or her thoughts on the matter. In parts of the country where people have not been greatly impacted, I hope and pray that it remains that way. Please stay safe and stay well.