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On the Murder of George Floyd

Post Date: 06/15/2020 6:38 AM

As a long time Dedham resident, I have been inspired by the many statements of outrage put forward by Dedham residents after the murder of George Floyd. And as Town Moderator, I have been encouraged to see the outpouring of support and solidarity by my many of my fellow elected officials. I want to add my voice to those who deplore the racism that gives life to this sickness in our society.

It’s impossible for a white person to fully understand the Black experience in this country. I remember being pulled over by a plain clothes police officer in an unmarked car for going through a stop sign. I was driving a road I was familiar with and was very confident that there was not a stop sign. Being pulled over by an unmarked police car driven by an officer not in uniform for an alleged traffic violation is quite unusual. Even though the circumstances were somewhat unsettling and I was not on “home turf," in fact I was driving in a neighborhood where I was in the minority, I was completely confidant that this would be OK. After all, I was a middle aged white male, in business dress, driving a late model car in broad daylight. And, in fact, it was OK. The officer quickly looked me over and realized I did not fit the description of a suspect he was seeking. I did keep my hands in sight but was never asked to get out of the car or questioned about where I was going.

I contrast that to discussions I have had with Black parents about “the talk” that they feel compelled to give to their children. I listen and believe them, but am stunned by the history of their experiences that makes this talk very necessary.

I guess I should not have been so shocked. After all, I have spent my life working in the field of community health. It is near impossible to do this work and not be confronted by the cruel disparities that face communities of color. 

Others have addressed the legal and policy changes that must take place to confront the pervasive inequities in our society. There can be no denying that these changes are necessary. What truly worries me is the underlying human condition that feeds these inequities. Thomas Merton writes, “changes in laws cannot change the minds and hearts or the source of violence in society.” How do we even begin to address that? Paraphrasing Merton, he contends that we must turn our minds and hearts to people of color in the fullness of their humanity, as they are – not as whites imagine, fear or project them to be. He invites us to make the painful effort to see white society as African Americans have seen and experienced us through history.

When I see the outpouring of solidarity with our African American citizens; when we are not afraid to say that Black lives matter, and yes, when even NASCAR has forbidden the flying of the Confederate battle flag!... I have a glimmer of hope. 

--Dan Driscoll, Dedham Town Moderator

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