If you watched the sad news in LA County these past few days, you too may have recognized a familiar scene, pirates plundering and pillaging and burning the town. It used to be in Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean where we could see this scene. But this weekend, we got to watch our local TV news broadcasts realtime as people descended on LA Downtown, Santa Monica, Long Beach, Huntington Beach, and Santa Ana being destroyed and pillaged.
Watching Pirates Where You Live Feels Different
The strange thing is it feels different when the pirates hit your town rather than some romanticized event far away in both time and place. Los Angeles has experienced civil violence before due to its own mistakes and its own radicals at least twice in my lifetime: the Watts Riots (August 11–16, 1965 – I hadn’t moved here yet ) and the Rodney King (April 29 – May 3, 1992) riots. Reviewing the history of these terrible, heart-breaking events, I can finally empathize with the feelings of frustration in the Black Communities with our criminal justice system.
My Experience of Racism
And looking at my own history, I empathize with racists too as my father was a racist. I have no idea why. My view when I was a child was that it was economic. Dad was a building and grounds maintenance department manager in a small company with seven kids. In my mind as a child, he was a glorified janitor. While that is perhaps a harsh assessment, I think he might have agreed with that assessment because I never sensed he was proud of himself despite the breadth of knowledge he had and applied in maintaining that building.
So, my guess was that his racism was because people have a need to feel superior to someone. Being towards the bottom of the economic ladder, he could justify his own life by the idea that he was superior to blacks.
Comedy Changes My Own View
Interestingly, the man who did more for my getting over my childhood than anyone else was Bill Cosby. While Martin Luther King was a great man, I was little affected by him. To me, he was a leader for the black community. But Bill Cosby was the greatest comedian of my lifetime. I used to sit and laugh so hard at his routines. And then I realized that what he described, I, a white boy, understood and related to.
If that was true, then blacks must be like me. I must be like them. There wasn’t a great difference dividing us other than the color of our skin. I’m grateful to God for teaching me this through humor. Because of humor, I was able to shed the racism I grew up with.
American Slavery Started with Blacks
The sad part of racism is that every human race has had it in some form. Thanks to a black writer, Alex Haley, and his movie, Roots, I even learned that while it was white men who brought the African slaves to the “New World,” it was blacks who sold the slaves to the whites in the first place.
And every race has practiced slavery. Even among Native Americans, there were tribes that took slaves from the defeated in their wars. Romans took slaves from the various tribes they defeated, including my Germanic ancestors. From the Christian Bible, we know that the ancient Egyptians took slaves. And, obviously, Africans took slaves from the tribes they defeated.
Hope for Societal Change toward Racism
One of my favorite new TV series is The Neighborhood, shows a black couple and a white couple working through integrating a formerly black neighborhood and shows racism in reverse where the racist is the black husband. This is a marvelously funny show, a marvelously human show.
Thus, my sadness watching people resorting to violence to get attention, and acting like the Pirates of the Caribbean, a Disneyland staple that has now lost its romantic luster for me. I realize that not all protesters felt only “Black lives matter,” though some of the protestors seem to convey that.
I have black friends and relatives that look to have some black blood who have personally experienced racism in America, especially by the police forces. Still, I would like to see some balance brought to the American black views. While they strive for “equality” in the business world and in American society, please remember the following:
- Not all white Americans live in high society either – I was born in a lower-class family, and despite getting a fantastic education due to the military, I am retired on social security and no sizeable savings either.
- It was whites who built the Underground Railroad to spirit black slaves to freedom in Canada.
- It was Northern white boys who fought their cousins in the South to give freedom to the blacks in America.
- It was a white president who wrote the Emancipation Proclamation and a white Congress who made it law.
My point is that not all white Americans are racist. And not all racists are white.
Small Businesses Struggle Without Riots
Another point here is that I owned a small business for six years, so I really felt sorry for the brick and mortar small businesses I watched on TV being ripped off and even burned. The rioters have no empathy for others when they wreak havoc on a community.
Most of the small businesses I worked with as a consultant were barely surviving financially, yet they were providing jobs for many others in their cities and towns. Because of COVID-19 and the Internet, many small businesses were already fighting to make it until the economy opens up again. Being burned out or merely plundered may finish them off.
Because of COVID-19 and the Internet, many small businesses were already fighting to make it until the economy opens up again. Being burned out or merely plundered may finish them off.
And, while I feel for all businesses during riots, I feel for small businesses even more because of how hard it is to be a small business today. From personal experience, I relate to that challenge to survive, so I was delighted to see Gretchen Schmid’s reported April 15, 2020, in her article, “Small Business Statistics: 19 Essential Numbers to Know (2020),” on Fundera.com:
About two-thirds of businesses survive two years in business, half of all businesses will survive five years, and one-third will survive 10 years. The longer a company has been in business, the more likely it is to stay in business—it’s those first few years that are the hardest. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also tracked business survival across industries and concluded that these statistics are pretty consistent regardless of industry.
From what I’ve seen in life, it is doubtful many of the rioters will care about the survival of the small businesses they attack. However, maybe they will feel more empathy for the employees who won’t have a job should their employer fail. Schmid also wrote:
There are 28.8 million small businesses in the United States, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, and they have 56.8 million employees. Small businesses (defined as businesses with fewer than 500 employees) account for 99.7% of all business in the U.S.
The Tinder that Started Worldwide Protests
Back now to what lit the fuse on all of the pent-up anger. I too saw of the murder of George Floyd, a most despicable action by a white policeman, Derek Chauvin, who showed a total lack of humanity. He apparently deserves to be charged with murder. And Minneapolis has done so. Hennepin County Attorney Freeman has filed murder charges against Derek Chauvin, who was arrested at 11:44 AM, May 29, 2020.
When we see a heinous act, we want immediate action. But in a nation run by laws, that action takes time. Nationwide, we viewed George Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020. So, what took so long? CBS News online reported that Hennepin County Attorney “Freeman said his office wanted to focus on the "most dangerous perpetrator," and that ‘this is by far the fastest we have ever charged a police officer.’” The other three officers are under investigation.
Justice Takes Time
Surely anyone in America who would want to be treated fairly themselves should they ever be charged with a crime will recognize that need. To make a charge stick, in a system that is often accused of being too lenient to criminals, Hennepin County Attorney Freeman needed the facts gathered. Now that he has the evidence in hand, he was able to act on at least Derek Chauvin.
The Bigger Question
While it is horrible and unacceptable that anyone, much less a law enforcement officer, would commit such a crime, how does that justify riots, pillaging, and arson? Peaceful protests to make the point that a certain group of people is upset fits America’s model of democracy. But where does any protest justify committing plundering, pillaging, and arson in return.
The sad part about this is that watching violence and destruction causes an emotional reaction in most viewers. They too want to hit back at the people destroying their communities, their peace. So, the cycle continues.
Time for Change
As a nation, we need to step away from anger and hatred. We need a leader of the caliber of Dr. Martin Luther King and of Mahatma Gandhi. We need to move from power to love. Mutual understanding is needed. Although we have a long way to go, let us also show gratitude for how much progress has been made.
Our entertainment industry, especially movies and TV/cable shows, shine a light of hope for our country because they are doing wonders at showing interracial marriages and friendships and even different sexual relationships (Dorothy and I enjoy Netflix’s Sweet Magnolias and Grace and Frankie). Remember, though, that changes in attitudes take time.
Small Pockets of Positive Action in Communities Nationwide
As I wrote my finishing touches on the first draft of this article, something truly amazing and wonderful happened. On the 5th day of protests around the U.S. and even the world, some police departments took an amazing step and joined the protestors. So, maybe it won’t be one spectacular leader who brings peace, love, and cooperation back, but rather hundreds or thousands of local leaders among the police, the courts, and the local governments who bring justice to all regardless of race.
In Camden, NJ, protestors took to the streets to peacefully protest racial injustice.— Beth Doane (@BethDoane) May 31, 2020
When police saw them marching, they did something.
They decided to join them. #riots2020 #GeorgeFloyd #laprotest #LosAngelesriots #GeorgeFloydProtests pic.twitter.com/84eagEYFv5
In a Forbes article, “In Some Cities, Police Officers Joined Protesters Marching Against Brutality,” Lisette Voyko reported on police leaders and officers showing solidarity with the protestors seeking an end to police brutality and racism. “
Further, Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields(’s comments) Friday to a black woman protester made the rounds online. ‘Let me tell you something—I am standing here because what I saw was my people face-to-face with this crowd and everybody’s thinking, “How can we use force and defuse this,” and I’m not having it. I’m not having that,’ she said to the protester. ‘You have a right to be upset, to be scared, and to want to yell. And we’re going to have everybody doing what they need to do and we’re going to do it safely. That’s my first commitment. And I hear you.’”
 Saturday, May 30, 2020, https://www.forbes.com/sites/lisettevoytko/2020/05/31/in-some-cities-police-officers-joined-protesters-marching-against-brutality/?utm_campaign=forbes&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_term=Gordie%2F&fbclid=IwAR3oNfz3p4PW4rFl70c4t2KWS0f_Bmk4Y40H6FTqb6AdSpfFrTILK3_brP8#9a65c7d5edb3
Amidst continued protests again on Tuesday, June 2, 2020, there were even more signs of efforts to come together by leaders like LA’s Mayor Eric Garcetti and even more policemen, police chiefs, and sheriffs and their departments who are acknowledging the need to eliminate racism. Among the policemen and policewomen, brutality and racism is a problem of the few. However, because it gets the media attention, makes whole departments and all police look bad.
A Start Towards a Return to Harmony
While I personally don’t know the full solution, still, I do know that white and black leaders truly listening and trying to empathize with each other will do far more to bring harmony to our communities than violence against peaceful protestors. The caveat here is “peaceful.”
There will always be those who feel entitled to rip off their neighbors. There will always be those to take advantage of any opportunity, like a protest that has the police departments tied up, to plunder and pillage. And it will affect small businesses disproportionately because most are barely eking a living now.
I do see hope from some of the stories on social media, especially Twitter, of humanitarian actions during these challenging times. For instance, today Hunter Mayberry, @ProfesserBird, posted a tweet about “A cop in Jackson, TN, giving out bottles of water and telling the protestors to ‘please be careful crossing the street.’”
Americans have the right to protest when injustices have been done, like in the case of George Floyd. There is no place in America for police brutality nor for racism. Likewise, there is no place in America for violence, arson, and plundering. Put that in the distant past with the pirates of the Caribbean.
These 2020 Riots destroy small businesses as well as major corporation’s facilities, which may have the resources to recover from violence. But small businesses sacrifice so much to reach a point of surviving their start-up years. And today they are facing additional threats of COVID-19 and the Internet. They are vital to the economic health of our nation, the source of jobs for millions.
Fortunately, we are seeing signs of hope. The criminals who touched off the frustrations and pent up anger of millions are charged and being prosecuted. Many states are taking action to prevent further injustices. And sheriffs and police, mayors and governors, in communities around our country are joining the protestors to demonstrate that they too agree with the call for an end to racism and police brutality.
Hopefully soon, we will find peace in our communities. Hopefully, racism will become a bad memory for everyone and disappear from America’s cities, towns, and rural areas. Hopefully, the small percentage of police personnel who choose brutality will be discovered and removed from their departments.
I look forward to the day when the only burning and ripping off businesses, large or small, I see will be when I return to Disneyland and ride Pirates of the Caribbean.
#riots2020 #protests2020 #georgefloyd #smallbusiness #racism #policebrutality #piratesofthecaribbean
Open your heart in selling,
John R. Aberle
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