Ed Hervey: The fatigue of racism

When Chris O’Leary asked if I would be interested in sharing my thoughts about racial discrimination by writing this piece, I was hesitant at first. The main reason for my apprehension is I didn’t know if I could effectively pen a message worthy of those who have risked everything to voice discontentment but are continuously ignored. Simply put, silence is no longer an option.

For myself, this conversation is deep, complex and has been set aside for family and close friends, until now. The conversation has taken over the news not only in the United States but worldwide.

I grew up in the Los Angeles area, where I’ve seen and experienced enough to last a lifetime. When I watched what happened to George Floyd in its entirety, it takes me back to waking up to the news of Rodney King, who was violently beaten by LAPD officers on March 3, 1991. Just over a year later, on April 29, 1992 there was a major outburst of violence, pillaging, and burning in Los Angeles that started in response to the acquittal of the four Los Angeles policemen linked with the beating of King. I can remember it as if it were yesterday.

I want to be abundantly clear; the pain and mental exhaustion of discrimination against African Americans goes beyond the cruelty witnessed in the disturbing videos of George Floyd’s death and Rodney King’s beating. African Americans have been asking and pleading to be heard since the Emancipation Proclamation.

It’s not exclusively just about police violence. This captures only part of the problem. Racism is a constant reality in our lives.

There are many examples that I could use, but one immediately comes to mind because it was so appalling. While athletes are admired, revered and often criticized, I recall an article written on July 21, 2015, by Edmonton Sun columnist Terry Jones. The article had offensive and shameful remarks aimed at former Edmonton Eskimo, Odell Willis. Nearly five years later, I still cannot believe what I was reading. There’s a paragraph in the article which quite frankly crosses the line.

“Willis has a record. He’s a repeat offender. Give him enough rope and he’ll hang himself. Tuesday the Eskimos returned to practice with the media gathered to see if there would be a noose around his neck.” – Terry Jones

The reference is an offensive image, especially to generations of African Americans who are aware of its history. It represents the lynching of at least 3,446 black people in the United States between 1882 and 1968, according to the NAACP.

I raised my concerns about the article in our weekly management meeting and had a follow up discussion with the President of the team at the time, but I cannot confirm if any action was taken.

This is a problem that is deeply rooted in society in terms of the way we see each other. Until these views are addressed, remarks like this will continue to be a problem.

We need our power of speech to be clear to ourselves first, then to our friends, our families and to our government.

We must listen to each other, work on solutions together and abolish the mind-set of racial discrimination, increase voter registration and elect officials who are compassionate and sympathetic to those who continuously fall victim to inequality, discrimination, societal injustice and the all-too-frequent loss of black life at the hands of police brutality. This is no longer tolerable; we must dictate change for and from all mankind and reject racial discrimination.

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