“I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe, please help me!” These were the final words of George Floyd as his life was taken under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer. This incident was the cause of domestic terrorism in 75 cities across the nation.

We have to ask ourselves, “Have we made any progress in race relation issues which are so deep rooted?” The fires and damage were caused here in Minnesota primarily by Minnesotans, with some outside influence. Looters exploited the damage to the stores. Several neighborhood businesses were destroyed in Minneapolis and St. Paul which will now make for hardships for local shoppers without transportation. Minneapolis police are not trusted, and they need refined procedures in their conduct.

Even if the charges to the officer seemed premature, the county attorney and the mayor felt something needed to be done immediately. Racism is ugly and we can’t fight for justice with injustice. It is a sad day in Minnesota when we have to live with unrest in place of empathy and love.

I understand why people are angry. Living in White Bear Lake for the past 50 years, we’ve experienced racial hatred toward our family. In 1970 we adopted our eldest son, Cameron, who is mixed race. Cameron and his wife, Michelle, live in White Bear Township. When he was growing up we received letters stating that he doesn’t belong in this community. At our church, a member confronted us that he didn’t belong there either. When Cameron goes into a store he is often followed around by clerks, security and other customers. It upsets me that he continues to have these experiences based solely on the color of his skin. It’s unacceptable and needs to change.

Last week a police officer on an eviction notice call in Grand Forks, Minnesota was killed in the line of duty. It turned out to be the son-in-law of my nephew, Tim Christian and his wife, Sandy, of Grand Forks. Their daughter Mandy’s husband, Cody Holte, a 29 year old police officer, leaves behind a 10 month old son, Gunnar. Cody was the first police officer to be killed by gun fire in the line of duty in Grand Forks history. Cody took three bullets of the 41 rounds fired from an AK-47. One other officer was also shot and is recovering.

While Memorial Day weekend had some inclement weather, most people found a way to be outside on bikes, camping, golfing and boating. This is the time of year for families to review safety practices for all outdoor activities. I met Bob Odom years ago through White Bear Lake Rotary. He told me that every time their family was made aware of an accident they talked about it at the dinner table and talked about how it could be avoided. They also stressed how some people seem more vulnerable than others. The Odoms have retired to Fernandina Beach, Florida.

There are many people and organizations that are working diligently to prevent COVID-19 from spreading and helping those who are recovering. There are many who are out of work. The pandemic has caused thousands to be unemployed, businesses filing bankruptcy and the depletion of household budgets. The heroes are the moms and dads who are doing home schooling and the teachers who are preparing lessons online. We tip our hats to the first responders and all the people in the medical facilities who work tirelessly to meet the needs of those infected.

Through this experience, and we don’t know how long it will last, people are becoming friendlier to one another. I’ve seen tables with free items in front of homes to anyone who can use them. People are finding new ways to help their neighbors and others. They are also finding ways to expand the food budget by buying in bulk and learning and trying new recipes.

Gene Johnson is Publisher Emeritus of Press Publications, White Bear Lake, and co-owner of the Moose Lake Star Gazette.

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