We interrupt this regularly scheduled program.

I sat down to write another COVID-19 update this morning and realized I just don’t have it in me. I think I can speak for a lot of Americans when I say that my heart is sick today. But it’s not because of some invisible virus. It’s because of the very visible hatred that is destroying the U.S. The country of my birth, and the land that I love. I don’t recognize it anymore.

407FCDE2-4FAE-4CB6-BE16-966ACC9A8906_1_201_a We Are All George Floyd The United States
Rest in peace, George Floyd. You deserved so much better.

George Floyd was murdered because he was black. There really is no other way to spin it.

So many of us, especially those of great privilege, who cannot comprehend how our skin color alone could make us a target, have stayed silent for too long. I have stayed silent too long.

I want to say this: I have utmost respect for law enforcement. It takes a special kind of person to be a police officer, a good police officer. It takes empathy, patience, good judgement under extreme pressure, and above all, courage. And I believe that very, very many – possibly the majority – of policemen and policewomen have those qualities. Targeting them all because of some very bad apples is wrong. So my question for police departments, mayors, and other authorities is this:  what can you do to make sure George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Oscar Grant, Philandro Castile, and so many others didn’t die in vain? How can you MAKE IT STOP?

But of course it goes much deeper than police brutality. It’s about a country that’s armed to the teeth, where racists with guns are too often committing horrendous acts of violence against innocent people. It has to stop.

If a black man asks you to leash your dog because it’s scaring the birds, and your response is to call the police, you’re part of the problem. If you see a black man jogging in your neighborhood and he makes you fearful, you’re part of the problem. And if you read about stories like these and don’t do or say anything, YOU’RE PART OF THE PROBLEM. For the longest time, that was me.

When I was a kid, we used to sing a song in our church choir: “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” It really does have to start with us. So I’m asking everyone to speak out. Start a conversation in your Zoom Sunday school class tomorrow. Ask your neighbor what he or she thinks. Start a dialogue at your next family gathering. Reach out to your friends of color and show them you care. We all have a voice. For John and me, it’s this blog.

We know this is a big departure from our usual topics of travel and life as expats in Colombia. And if this post offends you, we’re sorry. Feel free to unsubscribe from our blog, or just ignore us from now on. But in the words of another writer/blogger I respect, John Pavlovitz, sometimes there’s stuff that needs to be said. RACISM HAS TO STOP.

***
Yes, COVID-19 is still around and still escalating in Colombia. In some parts of the country, it’s quite alarming. There are indications that the healthcare facilities are reaching capacity in Bogotá and other hot spot areas. In Antioquia the numbers are still very low. And we just recorded our first new death in over a month. Monday, we’ll be entering a new phase of reopening, what the government is calling “intelligent quarantine.” We’ll see how it goes.

See you next week.

45 Comments

  1. Hear, hear on racism
    Nowadays it stems from the top and I don’t mean the Chief of Police or a state’s attorney general.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      The response from POTUS has been horrendous, just as expected. Throwing gas on the flames. It fills me with despair.

  2. Rosemary Enright Reply

    I couldn’t agree with you more and am grateful to be living in Mexico. It is disheartening to see the USA, a country which I considered to be the bastion of freedom, now become a symbol of leadership which condones racism and oppression. My heart breaks, too.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      It IS heartbreaking. The only thing that gives me a little hope is the promise of change in November. A different president won’t solve this mess, but responsible and moral leadership from the top will be a start. Let’s hope it comes about.

  3. Well said.
    I had forgotten about that song, but now it will float through my head with more meaning.
    Living in the Minneapolis area is very hard now. The anger and hostility is unimaginable. The smell of burning buildings and tears of the small business owners…and I wonder, would George Floyd have wanted this? From what his family and friends say: no.

    I hope tonight is peaceful.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Our hearts go out to you and others living in cities that are in so much pain right now. I’m sure George Floyd would be appalled. But I also get the frustration – people are simply fed up, especially those who have already lost so much from the pandemic and the lack of effective leadership. And when a football player taking a knee sparks outrage from bigots, what will it take to get people’s attention? It’s a shame it’s come to this, but I do understand it.

      I hope your night was more peaceful and today is better.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you for reading. It IS important.

  4. Nancy Klein Reply

    My heart is also breaking for the United States. Trump is making everything worse too. I am frightened for my family and friends there in a way I have never been before.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks for your comment, Nancy. We understand what you’re feeling. It’s so hard to be living far away from our friends and family in the states who are having to deal with this. It’s sad and scary. But even sadder and scarier for people of color whose lives are in danger every day for doing things we take for granted. Maybe this is the price we’ll have to pay for real change to take place.

  5. Thank you for writing this Susan. It’s important that each and every white person challenges these behaviours. It’s important we recognise institutionalised racism and do whatever we can to change it. And to change ourselves and our inner dialogues too. The USA is broken, and it’s breaking the hearts of people who are watching around the world. X

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Nicky. It IS heartbreaking, and it demands that all of us take a look within and ask what small acts we as individuals can do to drive big change. It’s a tough question, and I haven’t really answered it myself yet (but I’m working on it). Hope you and Ian had a lovely and peaceful day there in the French countryside! XOXO

  6. I really like this! We have to give up being silent and risk offending some people who might actually open their minds to a thoughtful discussion.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you for reading. Putting out a post like this is always risky, and we’ve been heartened by the positive response. We’ve only gotten one negative and borderline racist comment (that I didn’t approve). We really believe that most people are hungry for change and a more peaceful, tolerant world, and that gives us hope.

  7. Thank you for speaking out about this awful and shameful event. I feel sad, angry, upset, furious, appalled. I really hope justice will prevail sooner rather than later.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, Gilda. It’s hard not to feel demoralized by the situation in the U.S. But we do believe that If enough of us speak out, justice will prevail.

  8. Spot on, Sue. We undoubtedly have our own race problems, but as a Brit looking from over the pond, it seems like the US is sleep-walking into chaos. And with another 5 months to go before the election, God only knows how it might escalate. Especially, as you point out, with an obscene arsenal of guns in circulation. Have to say I’m generally not a fan of seeing bystanders video everything on their phones. But kudos to those who did on this occasion. Hopefully, George Floyd’s appalling death, and the subsequent protests (though not the wilful rioting), will in some way act as a watershed moment for race relations in the US. But unless there’s a complete change of attitude from the White House, that looks like a pipe dream at the moment.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, Ian. I think we can pretty much guarantee there will be no change of attitude from the White House, at least until there’s a new occupant (and let us all hope and pray that happens in November). The tiger doesn’t change his stripes, and Trump has shown time and time again that he completely incapable of governing, especially in a crisis. I shudder to think how we’re going to get through the next five months, or what’s coming next. But I do feel people are galvanized for change, and that gives me a little hope.

      Hugs to you and Nicky!

  9. Charles H. Wilsdorf Reply

    Great column. As Van Jones remarked the other day on CNN, it is not enough to say you are not a racist. But, if you want to stop racism you must become an anti-racist.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, Chaz. Could not agree more – we need to move to an anti-racism age. Hugs to you and Teresa!

  10. I’m so glad you wrote this. You expressed so well many of the feelings I’ve been having! We all need to communicate with each other and stop this hatred!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you so much, Mimi! Of course we’re on the same page (the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree – ha!). You and Dad brought us up right 🙂 But communication is really where it has to start. We have to talk to each other and make an effort to understand what it’s like to walk in the other person’s shoes. And I’m speaking for myself first of all.

  11. Lauren Donder Reply

    Beautifully written and I totally agree with you. Sadly, I think white nationalists are stirring the pot to make things more desperate in the US. And Trump supports them. Suddenly, the term “boogaloo” is out there – take a look; white nationalists want a new Civil War. So disgusting!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, Lauren. I can’t believe how much has happened, in just the few days since I posted this. It’s clear that the violence and vandalism isn’t coming from the peaceful protesters, the ones who truly want justice for George Floyd and a safer, more just world. it’s horrible to watch.

  12. Well said and written, Sue… I agree its time for all of us to state where we stand which side of the fence… I have family in tbe US and I no longer envy them but feel scared they will get caught in the crossfire. To an outsider I feel the world has lost respect for what was a great country…. I hope at the next election the people speak…

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, Carol. Hope your family in the US is staying safe. It just seems to be escalating a little more every day, making us wonder where it will all end. I hope and believe this is a watershed moment and change will happen in November.

  13. Thank you for writing this. I completely agree that the US is a country I/we no longer recognize. And I feel too that there are two realities in the nation — upper and lower, privileged and unprivileged. It’s been frightening seeing this become more pronounced during the pandemic and also in the context of everyday life. We used to be so much about equality, opportunity, fairness, acceptance… for all. It’s a very sad time.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, Kelly. Sad and scary times indeed. I think we’ll all come out of these days, and come out better than before. It’s all we can hope for.

  14. A beautifully written post and it needed saying. I am so shocked by this that I am speechless, but it is an awful situation that seems to be on the rise around the world. The UK is no longer a country that I recognise either. Brexit has brought dreadful racism and xenophobia to the surface. The sad part is that I think it was always there; divisive figures like Trump and Johnson have simply given it a green light.
    However, as you say, it is up to us to halt it. I just don’t know how. At present, nationalists seem to drown out sensible, liberal voices.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you so much. The words of support from our friends in the UK and other places in the world really mean a lot. And it’s also been amazing to see the protests in capitols around the world. I think racial inequality is a sickness in just about every country on the planet. If George Floyd’s death has any meaning, it’s that we all have to work together toward a solution.

      As for Trump, Johnson, and white nationalists: you know what they say about karma.

      • It’s why I won’t eat shark as a watersports person – what goes around comes around…
        I sincerely hope that something good comes from this terrible event and that it might be a catalyst for change.
        I don’t know if you follow the Zero Waste Chef, but she did publish a blog with links to sites and petitions to enable citizens to take direct action. I felt better for actually doing something. By standing on the sidelines, I not only felt powerless but also guilty that I am part of the problem and my silence in some way condones the appalling action. We can’t let this pass.
        Thank you once again. xx

  15. I have lots of black friends (attorneys, doctors, nurses, news caster, musicians, police, etc.) The unfair stops and harassment by police, fear from white people, prejudice, etc are daily occurrences for black folks. Even Oprah Winfrey was suspected of shop-lifting in a high-end jewelry store. That is why when you hear white and black people discussing the situation they come from a completely different perspective. This mistreatment, fear and prejudice for black folks happens EVERY. SINGLE. DAY

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you for your comment, Dawn. So many of us need a reminder of just how much easier our lives are every day because of our skin color. It’s stunning to think that George Floyd was arrested because he had a counterfeit $20 bill, and hard to believe that a white person would have even been arrested, much less murdered for it. If anything good comes of all this (and I think it will, once the smoke clears), it’s the conversations people are having about racial inequality.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, amiga. Hope you and Fabio have a sun-filled day there in beautiful La Paz.

  16. Yes! Yes! Yes! Thanks for writing this and for saying your piece. It does take courage to take a blog that’s essentially about travel and living as an expat and write a post that’s politically charged in these times. The word “heartsick” sums up my feelings as well as outrage. I am especially disillusioned with those who have taken a protest movement about racism and justice for George Floyd and worked to discredit it by adding violence and looting to the mix with #45 adding fuel to the fire. However, it was heartening to see the Sheriff in Flint, Michigan (talk about irony there!) put down his baton and join the march with the people of his community. And it’s been encouraging to see police in NYC and Oklahoma City take a knee to show their solidarity with the protesters. Your title is perfect! P.S. I too am a huge fan of John Pavlovitz. He is the kind of religious leader and Christian that I want to see more of instead of those who parade around being hypocritical, judgmental and sanctimonious.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks so much, Anita. One of the things that gives us hope is all the positive images of police laying down their weapons and joining the protesters, and sometimes even taking a knee. I’d like to believe that’s happening a lot more than the media is showing. The fact that you like John Pavlovitz is just one more indication that we’re kindred spirits 🙂 Stay safe there in Portugal, and thank you for being so supportive.

  17. Gwen Manning Reply

    You have nailed it Susan. I had just finished watching a documentary on youtube, Candice Owens – https://youtu.be/JtPfoEvNJ74. I had formed an opinion from this that this should be about police brutality, not racism. And your statement here confirmed my thoughts. “I want to say this, I have upmost respect for law enforcement……..”
    It’s hard to focus these days. Trump has our heads spinning. Just when you think it can’t get worse, he surprises it and lights more torches. US has to gang up on him and have him removed from office on grounds of insanity because he has 5 more months to destroy the US……..and he will do it if he can.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks for your comment, Gwen. So much has happened in the meantime, eh? It’s hopeful and encouraging that the movement for change has turned global. Hope you’re hanging in there 🙂

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