One by One by One

Today is a year since George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis.

Joey is silent.

Mr. Floyd’s murder was public and dramatic. It drew horrified attention.

Yet it was just another incident in a country with a culture of violence and police impunity.

We live 5 blocks from this monument to three young men—an African-American Christian and two European-American Jews who were trying to register African-American voters in Mississippi—murdered by police 57 years ago. Much has changed since 1964. Much hasn’t.

Justifiable or not, American police kill an average of two or three American civilians each day.

(To keep this in perspective, it’s not all the fault of police and policing. American police are recruited from American civilians. American civilians deliberately kill about 50 other civilians each day.)

Mr. Floyd’s terrible suffering was of a piece with that of other victims of deadly persecution. People suffer one by one by one. In the end, we are alone.

I’ve met Americans on their own turf in every part of the country. I’ve encountered only kindness from people of every age, color, ancestry, religion, political leaning and working status.

Police in particular, of various backgrounds, have been friendly and helpful to this stranger. They treated me like a person. A fellow human.

Mr. Floyd became a symbol, but he was an actual person. Unique. As were all the other thousands of victims of deadly racial objectifying violence, before and since. The law was meant to protect him, and them. It failed.

Mr. Floyd’s skin color may have made him seem Other to the cops. Poverty and history may have counted too. Somehow the officers’ mindset, their groupthink, didn’t let them see him as a person. To them he was an object.

Too many Americans, individually kind, buy into the same mindset to objectify immigrants, refugees, and asylum applicants. Opinion-shapers lead some Americans to see newcomers as invaders, criminals, usurpers, grifters, disrupters. “They don’t have morals or feelings like you and me. They don’t deserve our help. Bar the door.”

If only we could see each person as a person. A complex person. Ready to accept the benefits and burdens of belonging to our community. Worried and afraid.

We’ve all been there.

In the coming weeks, when we explore the origins of various NYC communities, you’ll learn a little about some of the individuals I’ve represented over the years. Maybe it will help you see immigrants and refugees as I do: one by one by one.

L to R: Will, a gardener at the Freedom Place monument; Jeffrey. We had a good conversation about civil rights history. (Photo by Nancy)
Pausing in Riverside Park. (Photo by Nancy)
L to R: Hudson River, Joey, Nancy

3 thoughts on “One by One by One

  1. I full heartedly agree. Every human being deserves to bei treated kind, equal, appreciated. There are still parts in the World where people are treating strangers like this. It is mit important to them how they look like. And you find it, guess where, still in Muslim countries. Suprise, the Muslim terrorists are only a small minority. Most of them are kinder than the Christians from Europe who are leaving refugees die in the sea and are turning those people in who are trying to help them. The only Europeans who not only show humanity but act accordingly. May every human being been treated as such.

    Greetings from Germany


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