Opinion: In the Midst of a National Nightmare There Is a Glimmer of Hope
Note: The following essay was crafted by Wayne Dawson, WJW Fox 8 anchor and Kent State University alumnus, who graduated in 1979 with a journalism degree.
As a journalist covering the news, I’m privileged to have a front row seat to history as it unfolds. Indeed, these last several weeks have been notable moments in America, now a nation in crisis, the scab of racial injustice and police brutality snatched off the wound of race in America, a wound that has never been allowed to fully heal.
But in the midst of a national nightmare there is a glimmer of hope, the real possibility racial injustice deeply embedded in this “land of the free” may soon be unearthed, exposed and finally eradicated with the prayer America can live up to its creed of being “one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”
A few weeks ago, no one knew George Floyd; now the entire world knows his name. A few weeks ago, he was just another brother struggling to make ends meet, working low-paying jobs handcuffed by a prior criminal record, a story not unlike many when it comes to African American men in this country.
But Floyd’s on-camera lynching, courtesy of a policeman’s knee to his neck, has made him an icon, not by the way he lived, but by the way he died. He will forever be remembered as the man who unknowingly started a movement.
Although scores of unarmed black men have died at the hands of police in recent years, Floyd’s death seems to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. His death seen all around the world focused light on what had been America’s ugly secret, the killing of black men by law enforcement officers at a rate far greater than any other race.
To put what is happening into historical context, the relationship between the communities of color and the people who serve and protect has been one of misunderstanding and distrust for many years. Throughout history, almost every riot in major cities throughout this nation has been because of the volatile relationship between the police and the Black community, often the result of police brutality. Indeed, here locally both the Hough and Glenville riots in the 1960s were the result of this unfortunate reality.
Today, some 60 years later, something has changed. A nation that seemed insensitive to the killing of black men by police in this country is now rising up and taking to the streets, but this time something is different.
In the ’60s, the ’70s, the ’80s and even in the ’90s, the cry of police brutality was mainly a cry from African American communities, and it was a cry that echoed in the wilderness, often falling on deaf ears.
Now, a rainbow of humanity – black, white, yellow, brown, red, gay and straight – are rallying together, marching together and protesting together all around the world. Indeed the killing of George Floyd at the knee of a Minneapolis police officer has sparked a clarion call for justice. And the people on the front lines are young people, most under the age of 30.
But that’s not all. Several corporations, media companies, athletes, pro sports leagues, hospitals and even NASCAR are joining together to stand up to racial injustice not only by police, but in all segments of our society.
As a news reporter entering his sixth decade of life and as a black man who’s lived through the civil rights era of the 1960s, the progress made in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, and the cries of reverse discrimination that echoed throughout this country in the 2000s, I am encouraged by what I’m seeing.
Yes, a new day is dawning led by a young generation of Americans looking for change, and my hope is I can continue to have a front row seat to witness America becoming all that it can be.