When the editor-in-chief of Jmore asked me if I would be interested in writing a column about my perspective on what is going on in the aftermath of the George Floyd tragedy, at first I wanted to say no.
The reason is because I don’t have a clear perspective.
I don’t get it.
I don’t get the evil, brutality and indifference I saw in the video of George Floyd’s murder on May 25 (though I do admire the courage of the onlookers. Where are those people who tried to stop them? They should be celebrated as heroes.)
I don’t get the rioters and looters who are destroying the lives and businesses that so many people worked to build day in and day out.
And not so differently from the coronavirus, I don’t get what is actually happening. Unless you live in an echo chamber, there are just too many realities presented by the media to fully digest a tenable perspective.
Who is behind the riots? Is it Antifa? Is it right-wing racists? I even read that some people think it was cops.
Or is it regular people like you and me who are just so sick and tired of the overwhelming challenges in their lives?
The reason Jmore asked me to write my perspective is because of the famous picture of me dancing with Meach Johnson in West Baltimore’s Penn North neighborhood during the Apr. 2015 protests in the aftermath of Freddie Gray’s death. What led me to dance with Meach that day was a feeling of empathy, love and openness to others.
It’s what the world needs right now.
When I was there that day, I spoke to a man who looked very old. In fact, he was the oldest man I saw in that neighborhood, where very few men get to live out their days in peace.
He asked me, “Do you know how old I am?” Being polite, I said, “I don’t know, 75?”
“I’m 57,” he said, “and every day, the police are so mean to me.”
I’ll never forget the deep sadness in his voice.
Everyone needs to be asking our elected officials to take steps to ensure that police brutality ends now. Police are meant to be heroes, friends, and saviors.
I believe the vast majority of them are.
But those whose sense of humanity, friendliness and mercy don’t clearly override their pride, anger and joy of domination should be removed from the force.
Rabbi Yerachmiel Shapiro is the senior spiritual leader of the Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah Hebrew Congregation, the Greengate Jewish Center.
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