David T. London, Guest Columnist.
This weekend was an eventful one for our community despite the shadow COVID-19 seems to cast over what we call “our normal.” There were eventful high school football games. College students visited home for the weekend. People got married. And a lot of yardwork was accomplished. My Saturday night was spent at a simple but powerful vigil for the late Breonna Taylor.
I should not know who Breonna Taylor is. Nothing she did was intended to make her a worldwide household name. But I do know who she is – or more accurately, who she was. And for that reason, I weep and I mourn. I will leave it to you to educate yourself about her. Information abounds online. But in the midst of all of that information, what I see is an American citizen that dedicated her life to saving the lives of others. I see an emergency medical technician (EMT) that was commended for her outstanding performance of duty. I see a woman adored by her family, her work colleagues, and her community. I see a young Black woman who was making a good life for herself and those around her. And I see that life was snuffed out in the wee hours of the morning in a misguided and fatal police her home while she slept. People are fired for messing up a dinner order or giving bad service to a customer. The killing of Breonna Taylor was a grave error much worse than messing up someone’s meal. But no one was held appropriately accountable. Justice was not served.
I put my life on the line for 20 years as a United States Army officer with deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, and South Korea. I support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America so that all Americans can live the Constitution’s promise of Liberty and Justice for All. Breonna Taylor’s promised right to Liberty and Justice was lost in the darkness of night.
That is my opinion. And it is the opinion of many others. You might not agree. But I ask a favor of you. Though you might not share my opinion, we do share a wonderful community. Your kids and my kids go to the same schools (if you have children of your own).
You and I have endured the somewhat recent trend of severe hurricanes year after year starting with Hurricane Matthew, and Irma, and the other one. We have both been inconvenienced by the traffic congestion of our growing county, and blessed by the superb quality of our schools-a quality that has certainly contributed to property values for homeowners. We miss the Seafood Festival, the Christmas Parade, the Independence Day Celebration, and the fun outdoor events that have been cut short by COVID-19. We like our safe neighborhoods patrolled by caring police officers and highly responsive members of our fire stations. And we all wonder what our county will look like in a few years with all of the growth that is going on.
We are one community. Whether you mostly focus on work during the day and try to disconnect from everything except your family when you come home--or if you are engaged in what happens here even more than you’re engaged at work, we are one community. We need each other. We need to know that we can depend on one other. That is how I feel about my Bryan County neighbors. That is how I feel about you. I can depend on you, because I know you can depend on me.
And so, the ask. If you do not agree that injustice was done in the Breonna Taylor case . . . if you do not agree that systemic racism exists in our Nation and in this very community . . . if the many cries your hear for fair policing leave you feeling that folks are ungrateful for good police officers that put their lives on the line for residents every day . . . or if the words Black Lives Matter make you feel like someone is calling you a racist or that our country will become a Marxist-Communist society . . . I have an ask. As the Apostle Paul teaches us, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). You might not understand why folks weep over the state of policing in America or the continuation of systemic racism in our society. You might not see what I see. But know that I love you and that if you were in need, I would want you to let me know so that I could help you. And I ask you to open your heart to the pain that is being sincerely expressed throughout our community and all around the country. Respond to that pain in love, not with fatigue or irritation or frustration.
Seek first to understand and then to be understood. And know that as a Black father who’s daughter is studying to become a nurse (just like Breonna Taylor was studying to become before police stormed her house and took her life), I am in pain along with so many of our neighbors. If you cannot help, then I just ask that you at least have a compassionate ear.
Thanks for your time, and have a great week.
David T. London is a Richmond Hill, GA husband, father, retired Army officer and leader in many church and community organizations.