By the Unicorner Editorial Board
The images are stark, horrible; the commentary, numbing. America on the brink. America under siege. America on edge. The tears, the violence, the anger. The destruction.
An African-American man named George Floyd, handcuffed, his body face down on the street in Minneapolis, Minnesota, died as a white police officer pressed his knee into the man’s neck. For nearly nine minutes the cop kept his knee firmly in place, despite the handcuffed man, again and again, pleading: “I can’t breathe.” A 17-year-old girl happened to film the scene, on May 25. Four police officers have since been charged, one facing second-degree murder. The image shocked the country. It shocked the world. America then exploded. Riot after riot after riot erupted across the land. More than a week later, protests have spread far and wide, and to Canada, to Europe, to Poland.
The looting and the destruction have torn at the soul of the United States. It is simply unacceptable. Much of it is the work of angry demonstrators who took to the streets to protest the killing of yet another black man targeted by law enforcement. There are reports that agitators with little, or no, connection with the protesters have also gotten involved. The reports suggest there have been extremists who have taken advantage of the situation, for their own political purposes, and perhaps sick entertainment.
Despite the destruction, despite the loss of perhaps everything, some business owners, to their credit, remain solidly behind the protesters. “Let my building burn,” declared Ruhel Islam, owner of Gandhi Mahal Restaurant, in Minneapolis. “Justice needs to be served.”
He added: “We can rebuild a building, but we cannot rebuild a human. The community is still here, and we can work together to rebuild.” The community will surely make sure he rebuilds.
And, yet, amid all this history in the making, something is starting to emerge from it all. Young people are taking a stand. Young people are showing leadership. Young people, in some cases, fresh out of high school, are showing the beauty of American democracy at work, practicing their Constitutional right to demonstrate, pushing into place peaceful protest, demanding that people keep it peaceful, positive, while demanding change to institutional racism, among other rampant forms of racism and discrimination. This is serious education going on here. These are the young people often stereotyped of being able to do little more than play on their social media platforms. Well, these young people may very well save America, and even the world. An editorial headlined in The Washington Post said it best: “Even amid strife, the best of America shows itself.”
On Monday, as The New York Times reported, federal forces in Washington, D.C., used rubber bullets, chemical irritants and flash bang grenades to “clear peaceful, lawful protesters” so that U.S. President Donald Trump could walk to nearby historical St. John’s Episcopal Church, for a photo op, a cheap PR stunt. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote this was “an insecure old man who claimed heel spurs to dodge the Vietnam draft and now needs to prove his own manhood.” The president, with no military experience, seems quick to want to unleash a military-style attack on fellow American citizens, commentators have observed. However one might define leadership, this isn’t it. The religious leaders of the church gave the president a serious reprimand.
For a growing number of people, Mr. Realty TV Show, with his sarcastic name-calling and bullying, doesn’t seem quite so impressive as president anymore. The real stars of the moment, arguably, are the young people showing what leadership is all about. A lot of these young people are shining.
If you, as students, don’t think you have a voice, think again. You may have a voice and a maturity that are a lot more impressive than you realize. You may be able to help shape history.
Get out there and shine.