Editorial: A Call For Unity

Please take a moment to read Robert’s reactions to the murder of George Floyd and the resultant protests in the United States.

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 06/03/2020 20:55 4 Comments     ShareThis

I had seen the name George Floyd popping up on Twitter throughout the day this past Friday, but it wasn’t until the late afternoon that my dad told me the man’s story. We spoke in the kitchen, and as my dad laid out the facts for me, the second he said that the officer in Minneapolis had pressed his knee onto the back of Floyd, who was repeatedly saying he couldn’t breathe, I already knew what was coming next. As I stood and listened, I almost cried. It’s a story that’s not only been repeated too many times, but it’s also one that is painful to hear.

I know that no one comes onto Nintendojo for politics or the nightly news. Indeed, for many of you it’s likely an escape from both to head here and read about video games. It’s with respect to all of you that I say today is simply a day in which it’s impossible to let the moment pass and not address it. The murder of Floyd and the ensuing chaos that has followed is impacting all of us. There are times when the day-to-day comes to a screeching halt and this is one of them.

I listen to someone on the radio in the mornings who was talking the other day about the need to be pragmatic when looking at data. Numbers don’t lie, so don’t let emotion override the cold, hard information and sway how you feel—that was the basis for his talk. I can understand that mindset, but I think that if someone is going to truly be pragmatic it also requires them to take pause and assess the moment, to read the room, and to understand that as human beings numbers will never be the only factor in a debate. How we feel is as much a part of mankind as our ability to crunch stats and draft charts.

The murder of George Floyd can be summed up as a number, one that is relatively small in comparison to similar deaths at the hands of law enforcement in relation to other demographics of people, but is nonetheless impossible to extricate from the history that’s indelibly linked to the situation. There have been many black people who have been unfairly and unjustly persecuted and killed in the United States from its inception as a nation, going all the way back to the days of colonization. So yes, while I can look at the numbers that tell me a specific story, the feeling of seeing even one more black man killed for no good reason doesn’t go away as a result.

Yet, looking out at the sea of tweets and Facebook posts and cellphone videos, everyone is finding ways to tell their own stories based on what they’re seeing and how they want to interpret it. I know one person who feels the attacks on rioters is an excuse to exercise violence against women. I’ve seen other people assert that the alt right is seeding discord by planting instigators among the crowds of peaceful protesters, while others insist it’s members of the extreme left with groups like Antifa who are initiating the violence. For an issue that is starkly plain and bipartisan, millions of voices have somehow managed to turn it into a catchall for so much more.

In many ways I can understand that. The murder of Floyd speaks to larger issues that have plagued America for generations as they pertain to race in this country. If now isn’t the time to talk about it all, then when is? We’ve all been home for months with nothing to do fending off the coronavirus, yet I haven’t heard any national debate pertaining to race relations and law enforcement. When these moments happen, it’s perfectly reasonable to take them and try to produce something good from them. Frankly, what sort of country would we be if we didn’t?

Debate is at the core of America, but I can also appreciate the idea that there are absolutes. The unjust killing of any person is inexcusable. What is being lost in this moment, however, is the idea that the only absolutes right now are that George Floyd deserves justice and that as a country we need to come away from this having arrived at a better understanding of the factors that make deaths like his possible, and with a sensible response ready to go moving forward. The violence, the rioting, the looting, however… that is where I don’t agree.

I’m not white. My perspective doesn’t come from someone who can only imagine what it’s like to be a person of color living in a country where the deck can sometimes be stacked against you. I’ve been stopped by the police for no other reason than being Mexican while an APB was out for someone Latino, and to be totally honest, it was a scary experience. I was lucky enough to walk away unscathed. I’ve had family who were similarly victimized but who were on the receiving end of violence. We rightly talk a lot about slavery and racism towards African-Americans in the US, but Mexicans for our part can also attest to attempted genocide and racial cleansing at the hands of European colonizers. Indigenous slave labor built the missions in California. Even today the discrimination and persecution exists, with a lot of violence concentrated in border states like Texas. It wasn’t that long ago many of the people so incensed and indignant now on social media were once, months ago, decrying the situation at our southern border.

Don’t mistake what I’m saying as an attempted pissing match of who has the worst atrocities under their belts. My point is that all people of color are at the center of what’s happening, and as one of those people I have seen some shit in this country. I can’t pretend that both the good and bad things I’ve experienced from people of all ethnicities and walks of life as a minority have never happened. They color my perspective on life every single day. I’ve seen some of the best that people have to offer, and I’ve seen some of the worst.

What I’m driving at is that there may be systemic issues within the systems of the United States, whether it’s our economy, our mass media, our law enforcement, and so on, but when I interact with people on a day-to-day basis living where I do in the Bay Area—these are my neighbors. This is my family. These are my friends. These are the people in my community. Reality doesn’t go away because someone on social media thinks that it should.

My friend, who is black, got mad at me the other night because he didn’t like that I was in support of peaceful protesting as opposed to looting and rioting. He told me to “do better.” His words have been in my head ever since then. I’ve known this man for 20 years. To think that because I don’t condone wanton violence has somehow made me his enemy is both bewildering and heartbreaking.

Over the weekend and on Monday night, the Bay Area was ravaged by violence. In my hometown, which I’ve lived in for 30 years, we were looted. Buildings burned. My cousin works at a grocery store and heard gunshots in the parking lot. In another city, looters attempted to burn down a business with 200 residences above it, an act that would have killed scores of people. A member of my immediate family lived not far from where that happened—what if her building was the one targeted? What if she burned to death because rioters had a point to prove? I look at my neighbors right now and all I can think is, why should their lives and businesses be on the line right now?

Half my block is owned by either Mexicans or Indian people. We’re all people of color. We’re all just as much a part of this fight as anyone else. I walked around on Monday assessing the damage and thinking of the countless familiar faces I’ve taken for granted for so many years. Not one of them, nor their jobs, nor the businesses they own, are sacrificial lambs for any cause, no matter how just it might be. This is a sentiment that I’ve heard echoed by many people that is being drowned out by angry voices.

On some level, I get it. I get the rage, the indignation, the furor. My grandfather walked past signs in restaurants in Texas that said “No Dogs, No Mexicans.” Mexicans were just as much victims of Jim Crow laws and segregation. I don’t need anyone, white, black, or otherwise, to attempt to qualify my experiences with and loathing of racism and oppression in the United States. But I also can’t pretend that innocent men like David Underwood haven’t been murdered in the middle of the violence that’s taking place all around us. A black man who helped guard Oakland’s federal building, a place where I worked. David Dorn was shot and left to bleed to death in the street over absolutely nothing. It’s unfathomable to me to imagine someone thinking there’s any justification for further death, especially the death of another black person, in order to effect change in America.

If my friend doesn’t want to speak to me anymore because I’m standing by my convictions and not his, there’s not much I can do. What I can do, though, is be honest, and speak from my heart as a person of color. I want to see all four of the cops that either murdered Floyd or stood aside and were complicit in his death go to jail. I want to see a lasting change come from all of this mayhem and chaos. What I don’t want is to wonder if my family might die because someone wants to steal a TV, or have to visit someone I know in the hospital because a rioter is indiscriminate in their quest for justice.

For those who haven’t heard her, please listen to the words of Atlanta’s Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms in the video below. She’s an African-American woman with four children. If I can’t compel the need for peace and unity right now, then please let her deliver the message. And if she also can’t… I can only hope that we as a country can heal and come together sooner rather than later. More importantly, I implore all of you no matter what ethnicity or color you are—listen to each other. Listen and hear what your brothers and sisters in this country are saying. Stop assuming that because someone doesn’t entirely agree with your viewpoint that they’re your enemy. We are all living lives distinct from each other and have had experiences which have formed who we are as people. Those things do not disappear, ever, no matter what the circumstances are. Who we are shapes how we react, and I firmly believe that the majority of America, that the people who are massing peacefully in the thousands all around this country, are doing the very best they can. I am trying to, and I hope that you all are, as well.

Stay safe, everyone.

4 Responses to “Editorial: A Call For Unity”

  • 1450 points
    penduin says...

    Thank you for this. Thank you.

    I disagree with your friend’s criteria, but his words are ironically spot-on. We, as in everybody, in the broadest sense, can and must “do better”. That means talking about these important things even where and when they’re uncomfortable (perhaps _especially_ then). That means recognizing and speaking out on the little things, that bigger things may be prevented. That means protesting injustice, and it means leading by example and showing respect, in a time when too many “leaders” are void of any leadership or respect.

    Robert, by writing this editorial you are doing better. Everyone who reads it instead of scrolling by, is doing better. Every time we decide “I’m with you”, rather than making an enemy or staying silent, we are doing better.

  • 739 points
    OG75 says...

    Thank you Robert. I read every word. I hear you.

    As a white educator who serves many people of color, I’m always striving to be the best advocate, ally, and citizen I can be. I believe listening and reflecting on experiences like yours contribute to this and make me a better anti-racist. With the current “void of leadership” in this country that penduin referred to, I believe leading by example is even move important. My wife and I discuss this as we raise our two young children and think about what kind of people we want them to be, what kind of world we want them to exist in.

    Peace to you and your family. Thanks again Robert.

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