Each day at The Daily Item, I am part of a reporting and editing process that handles tens of thousands of words and dozens of images in print and online.
While many tools and much technology go into producing a print newspaper and a website news report, in the end, it all comes down to those two things.
Words and images.
Most days we have more of both than we can possibly use.
As I sat down to write this column, though, I felt I had none.
This is the final version of a writing process that began Tuesday morning and lasted until Friday afternoon. If deadline hadn’t been the inevitable force it always is, I might still be working on it.
Words and images from the murder of George Floyd, a Black man, by white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, and of the protests that have followed, have been everywhere.
We have published multiple local stories, photos, and videos of peaceful protests in places like Selinsgrove, Sunbury, Milton, Lewisburg and State College.
John Finnerty, our reporter in Harrisburg, has covered the statewide response. We have used more Associated Press stories and photos than usual to bring the national and world perspectives together.
Tens of thousands of words. Dozens of images. Every day.
For this column, though, I struggled to find the words. In the end, I had to settle for these and admit my inability to do better.
I am a white man, with all the attending privileges.
I have never been ill-treated by a police officer or even thought that I might be.
I can walk on pretty much any street without concern someone will think I don’t belong there. In most cases, I wouldn’t even be noticed.
“You have no idea” is an off-putting phrase I try not to use and don’t like to hear.
But I have no idea what it is like to be Black in America.
I can listen to and support those who do. I can try my best to avoid any sense of racism, even though I know I will never completely succeed.
The bottom line remains. I have no idea.
Over and over, we have seen words and images all too similar to what happened in Minneapolis.
We’ve seen them in the cases of Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York, Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio, and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014.
We’ve seen them with Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in St. Paul, Minnesota in 2016.
We’ve seen them with Stephon Clark in Sacramento, California in 2018, and with Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky less than three months ago.
We search for answers and potential solutions, but that search never lasts long enough or becomes the priority it must be.
The tragedies continue. The protests become louder, more frequent, and in some cases, more violent. Only the town or city involved changes.
Will this time be different?
I want to say that it has to be, though there’s little historical evidence to believe it will be.
It won’t unless we find the will to make it happen.
It won’t until we commit to finding honest answers to these two questions:
1. What kind of nation do we want to be?
2. What kind of nation don’t we want to be?
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