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COLUMN — Thinking through these troubled times

Recent events have made me step back and catch my breath.

My system has been bombarded with images that bring back memories of a not-too-long-ago past: protesters, signs, fires, police, National Guard troops, looting all seem reminiscent of the turbulent times of the Civil Rights Era. I was a much younger man then and personally experienced many injustices during those times.

I was very active in the numerous marches, strikes and other acts of protest in the area and other parts of the state. I am motivated by the passion of those involved to see things change. Thankfully, things did change but it was many years in the making. Over the years, I have wondered, just how much has America changed?

Recent events involving racial bias and injustice and other high-profile incidents involving African Americans and police all caught on tape have opened the eyes of America. Simple police confrontations with African Americans often turn deadly. Why?

George Floyd was killed by police for allegedly possessing a counterfeit $20 bill. A short time later Floyd was handcuffed facedown and then choked to death by a cop who felt it necessary to subdue him further by placing his knee on his neck. Why is this a reoccurring theme in black communities? I feel a lack of sensitivity exists among too many law enforcement personnel and an underlying racial bias exists with these individuals.

I am sure that Police Chief Andy Ellington and Prince Edward County Sheriff Tony Epps have policies in place to deal with racial sensitivity and that everyone is treated without bias. Still, I would like to see a forum assembled of law enforcement officials, ministers, local leaders and citizens that could come together to discuss some next steps in ensuring that some current policies change.

America seems to be on the cusp of a serious change in race relations, the movement appears to be gaining speed as more and more Americans recognize the biases that exist among the different races here in America. Denial and the stubborn resistance to change demonstrated by a large segment of Americans has run its course and enough is enough.

The pot has been brewing for some time and it has finally boiled over. Let’s not blow this opportunity to come together for real change. Vote in November to get this country back on the right course with unity over division. We need a leader that will unite us and not incite us. The continued racial discourse and insensitivity that the current White House has displayed is appalling.

Personally, I have become increasingly uncomfortable when having a confrontation with police. A few years ago, Paterson Brown Jr., the 18-year-old son of a close friend was shot by a police officer who was off duty at the time. The officer mistakenly thought the young man was reaching for a weapon as he reached for his registration. No weapon was found.

All lives matter to me – especially the lives of young black males who have been the targets of society for a long time. My advice to everyone is simple — keep your mouth closed and your hands in plain sight when confronted by the police for any reason. Comply with all instructions immediately- not when you feel like it. Above all — don’t break the law — you’re inviting a confrontation with the authorities. The vast majority of law-abiding citizens never have negative interactions with law enforcement.

So therefore — let’s slow down, tap our brakes and not lose control of the wheel at this critical time. It looks like we are going to be in for a wild ride.

Carl U. Eggleston is president of the Oliver & Eggleston Funeral Establishment. His email address is carlueggleston@gmail.com.