open letter newport ri

Love What’s Up Newp? Help fund our locally owned, independent, award-winning newsroom with a contribution today. Support What’s Up Newp

“Man’s inhumanity to man,” and “depraved indifference” are just two ways of describing what we have just seen in Minneapolis and, at a time, when unity and support of each other are so desperately needed. 

Many of us are shocked and dismayed. Still others aren’t surprised because the underbelly of racism and discrimination has manifested itself in some form over thousands of years. Somehow, we always manage to find reasons and ways to demonstrate this ugly side of human nature. Certain ethnic and racial groups have been ostracized and persecuted on virtually every continent for centuries, based on ideology, religion, greed, power, fear, misunderstanding, and propaganda, etc. 

But, it would be an egregious error to relegate the murder of Mr. George Floyd in Minneapolis to some expected occurrence in the historical ledger. We are talking about a human being whose life was unjustifiably terminated in the most cruel way by a person in authority. We cannot let this pass. We all must take a stand against such inhumane behavior.

A lot has been said about “a police culture” that has allowed the killing and torture of African-Americans, and not just of late. There are many, many black individuals who have been victims of police brutality in our country over the past several years.. Still, most reasonable people realize that the vast majority of police officers are not prejudiced nor do they commit or condone such unjustifiable violence. 

- Advertisement -

To the credit of the Providence Police Department, a statement has been made condemning the action of the Minneapolis policeman and his accomplices. I haven’t heard other departments in RI doing this, but I think all of them should be making the same, clear, decisive statement.

However, it would not be entirely helpful to blame all of this racial unrest only on the “police culture.”  There is plenty of evidence of racial discrimination in other elements of our society. We see it in practice in government, politics, business, schools, and social groups.

Right now we are facing the most challenging health crisis in a century with the COVID 19 pandemic. But, this racial crisis is more extensive and is a sickness for which this country never seems committed enough to cure. We don’t regard it to be  the profound problem that it truly is and so haven’t devoted the time and energy to find remedies. Do we ever think about how it feels to be constantly worried about being subjected to biased attitudes and behavior almost every day of our lives? 

We always find a way to dismiss the idea that all of us have a responsibility to do something about racism. We do this through a process of dehumanization which allows (deludes) us into thinking that another person whose appearance is not the same as ours does not share the same humanity. We don’t identify ourselves with others who don’t share our “markings,” by race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.  They don’t look like us, so they can’t think and feel like us is the conclusion.

Another delusion is that these biases just “show up,” when, in fact, they are learned attitudes and behaviors. They are subtly or not-so subtly taught at home and get reinforced by social groups in school and work and other places. 

I am sure that there are many other people who are like me and shout out, in the phrase of current advocacy, “Enough is enough.!” We are fed up with doing nothing meaningful. We are  outraged about the suffering and, even despair, visited upon not only African-Americans, but also on all people who cherish and embrace equality and justice.

While expressing concern about injustice is fundamental to the American way of life, demonstrators are not justified in becoming violent by setting fires, looting, and attacking police. They demean the outcry of injustice and, in this instance, dishonor the life and memory of Mr. Floyd and hundreds of other victims. 

However, focusing on this antisocial behavior can become a distraction when you take into account that a human life has been tragically and brutally ended. This murder is the crime that set in motion a wide gamut of protests that, in turn, are also the result of years of frustration and neglect of the civil rights of Black America.

We all have a duty, not just as citizens of the United States, but as members of the human race to respect the rights of others. We must have a system of values and a code of law that allow everyone to live freely in a fair and just society with equal opportunity to succeed. When the law is flaunted by law enforcement, chaos results.

We also have to be mindful of how racism is reinforced by silence and how much of an impression such silence has on our children. A very important step that needs to be taken is to teach our children at home and in school about the evil nature of racism and the corresponding need to eradicate it.

So, it must be said unequivocally that the unlawful killing of African-Americans, notably by certain police officials, is disgraceful, immoral, abhorrent, unacceptable, and un-American. 

Starting today, all individuals and groups should take an oath to end racism in any form.  Don’t let this moment go because it affects all of us. We will be a better people and a better country if we stand up for racial justice and do our part. 

J. Clement Cicilline M.S.

Newport, RI

Help support our locally owned, independent newsroom
We know you care about independent, fact-based coverage of Newport County—that’s why you’re here. But it costs money to keep our community informed. Support What’s Up Newp today and help fund the essential hyper-local journalism of tomorrow.