Editor’s note: To protect the subject of this piece, the in-House Editorial Board has withheld the author’s identity.
On June 1, I worked a shift in the trauma intensive care unit as riots and looting continued outside and the National Guard patrolled the streets.
A group of nurses and I gathered around the police radio held up by two officers who accompanied a patient.
You walked up to us in the hospital hallway and said, “Excuse me, I’ve never willingly engaged in conversation with police officers, but may I ask your perspective on what’s going on?”
The officers replied that they do not condone what the officer did in Minnesota. “He should be in jail for life,” they said. “And if that were my partner, I’d have pulled him away.”
“But,” they added, “what is happening now is not helping. It pulls the attention away from the issue at hand.”
You replied, “I’ve been thrown on the ground outside of my mother’s house when I came to pick up my baby brother for softball practice because I ‘fit the description’ of two black men, surrounded by six cruisers. I understand the rage that people must feel.”
“I am just a 25-year-old man,” you continued, “but I’ve had 25 years of being afraid of making the wrong move and losing my life. I am just a 25-year-old man and I don’t pretend to have the answers, but maybe, just maybe this will raise awareness for people that this has to change.”
We discussed the history of violence against Black Americans. We discussed the initiatives already at play to strengthen communities and combat ignorance. We discussed how some people may never change but that can’t stop us from doing what’s right.
One officer stated that she says ‘hello’ to people in the street because maybe that person will walk away and think, “Wow, an officer has never said hello to me before, I’m going to start saying hello to them more.”
You replied, “Look, at the end of the day, you’re human, I’m human, and I hope we can just see each other as such.”
You may be ‘just’ a 25-year-old man, but your voice has enormous power to promote change for good.