After watching the gut-wrenching video of George Floyd dying right in front of my eyes, being murdered by someone who is supposed to protect, I had flashbacks of a scene in the movie American History X. That is what popped into my mind, a brutal and inhumane scene from a movie. If it had only been a movie, I would have been able to switch the channel. But it was not. I am sure a lot of us want to do that, a lot of us just want to unsee what we had to witness. It’s too painful. It’s too devastating. It’s too shameful.
How calmly Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes, ignoring his pleas, ignoring his right to live, ignoring everyone’s right to live. I cannot explain away the emptiness, the lack of humanity, the ease with which Derek Chauvin put himself above the law. It is frightening and infuriating. It haunts me, and I understand the urge to burn, loot, and smash things. Because it is too much. Because it happened again. Because I was waiting for officials to step in, for leaders to bring change and justice, and for people to stop covering up.
But it didn’t stop. The bad apples, the rotten apples, keep appearing, hurting our society, and questioning our humanity. Even if I could accept that they are rotten to the core, I cannot accept that we let them rot amongst us, infecting all of us. Which brings me to the false claim of loyalty. Not stepping in, not speaking up, not reporting someone who acts above the law. Covering up, making excuses, pretending it didn’t happen, brushing it off as a one-time-mistake, which it rarely is. People like Derek Chauvin are encouraged and supported to act above the law because people around them don’t speak up. So let me tell you what loyalty is and what it is not.
Loyalty IS NOT:
You are not loyal if you stand aside and let it happen. You are not loyal if you are a silent witness or look the other way. You are not loyal if you accept excuses or make excuses. You are not loyal if you avoid being honest or voicing your concerns.
You are not loyal if you cover it up or if you pretend not to see the cover-up. You are not loyal if you believe there are different standards because you belong to a particular group of people. You are not loyal if you are blindly accepting or ignoring what others are doing.
Loyalty is NOT obedience or worship. Loyalty does NOT justify inaction. Loyalty does NOT excuse racism. That is just a pretext. If you strip away all the excuses why someone may not interfere, act or say something, then all there is left is fear. So stop calling it “loyalty.”
Loyalty is being honest and trustworthy. Loyalty means being true to yourself, your values, the ones you thought about and chose for yourself, not the ones you blindly accepted because it is so convenient not to think for yourself.
Loyalty is standing up for each other. Loyalty is speaking up when someone crosses a line, even when it makes you feel uncomfortable. Loyalty is stepping in when someone puts himself above the law and helping anyone in need.
Loyalty cannot be demanded – it comes from the heart. It is time to think for yourself, to wake up, and make up your own mind. Stop pretending that you have no control over your life and take on the responsibility that you have - to be the best version you can be – every single day.
If you desperately want to be loyal, then I only ask you to remember one thing: Being loyal to Humanity comes first. It comes before your religion, before politics, and before your fellow officers. It comes before your best friend since kindergarten, and it comes before your family. Yes, it does. It comes before all of us, before everything that you believe in or think you belong to. When will we realize that no life is more valuable than another? When will we know that we are all the same?
I believe in compassion, love, and kindness. I saw none of these in this horrifying video. I still believe change starts within each of us. You lose trust in humankind; you eventually lose trust in yourself. So don't. Trust yourself. You can make a difference. Speak up. No more silence.
We can all speak up. Every single one of us, finding our own way of making our voices heard, teaching our children, our families, our friends precisely that. To be loyal to humanity first. That is where compassion lives. That is where love resides. That is where kindness has a place. That is where we are meant to be in this lifetime or the next. I will not give up on us.