Editor’s note: The author was scheduled to give this speech at a Firemen’s Park rally in Chaska on May 31. The rally was later canceled and he gave the speech at an online event. This is an edited version of the speech.

First off, I want to thank Ekaanth for reaching out to me and allowing me to voice my thoughts in front of so many people.

Through all the chaos and destruction, we must remember why we are all here today. That reason being the brutal treatment of George Floyd on May 25 at 8:24 p.m.

Keeping the law in check is what keeps our country in order, but what Derek Chauvin did was not only disturbing, but heart-wrenching. The fact that it took so long for him to be arrested and charged makes me question our entire mentality as a nation.

I will get to the mindset later, but I want to start with why I’m here today. The truth is that when it comes to politics and racism, I have had my opinions, but never felt the need to voice them. In this case, watching that video and seeing the chaos that came with it really hit a nerve that I had never felt before. Realizing that I not only had the social media platform to voice my thoughts, but also feeling I had a real message that people should hear.

My message being that no matter what the situation, we always need to look on both sides of the spectrum. Doing that not only broadens our perspective, but allows us to have empathy for all involved.

Not all cops are bad cops. There are a lot of cops that join the force to make all lives better. There are also a handful of cops that use their badge in an unethical way, which we tend to hear more of.

I want everyone to think about this as an African American. You grow up watching this mistreatment on TV and social media. Your parents constantly remind you how to act if a cop pulls you over or comes up to you on the street. And for many, they see this happen in their own community with no camera capturing it. Then you refresh your feed and see the video of someone the same skin color as you being abused in the way that Floyd was.

There's a reason why a stereotype that all cops are bad has emerged. It’s backed up by the fact that three cops watched while George was choked for almost eight minutes pleading for his life! I know there are good cops out there, but in situations like this we need to see the protection and justice that the police are supposed to provide.

A lot of people say that cops get a bad rap because of a few bad officers, and they do. But I ask those same people, why is it that all black people get a bad rap because of the way they dress, talk and live. See how that works?

When we generalize a whole race of people as “thugs” or “thieves” or even a whole group of people like the police as “out-of-touch” or “racists,” then we are not advancing change, we are creating more division, which is exactly the problem.

Living in white suburban America shelters a lot of us from the real problem in our country. Me being half white is also a shield over me and I have no hesitation to admit that. We may see a little division here in Carver County, but that doesn’t even scratch the surface to what is really happening across our country. The way African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Muslims, and every race in between are portrayed in this country, along with the painful events in U.S. history ignites hatred that is continuing and leading us in the wrong direction when it comes to equality. This, of course, angering a lot of people, including me.

As we have seen on the news, there have been buildings burned and stores ripped to shreds because of what transpired on the night of May 25. Why? People have hit a boiling point and understandably so. With this brutality happening three times in just the last three months with the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, as well as the decades of racism and oppression.

People want justice for George. I want justice for George, but I can tell you right now that committing arson and looting stores is not justice for anybody. It only threatens more lives and destroys our communities that people depend on. Not to mention it distracts us from the real problem we face.

Justice for George starts with the arrests and sentences of all the officers involved, plus events like this here at Firemen’s Park. Peaceful protests and open mics like these for people to voice personal concerns and confront the real problem facing our nation.

Our mindset as a country needs to shift for real change to occur. Black lives do matter, but in my eyes, it’s more about equality for all. The way we treat people, no matter the color of their skin, the gender they identify as, the religion they follow, or their political beliefs.

We must be understanding and tolerant, because it’s not for us to judge others. Having that mindset of treating others with a certain level of acceptance and understanding is a small step, but nonetheless, a step forward to creating a better nation for all of us in the future and the generations that follow.

As I close up, I want to send my condolences to the Floyd family and let them know that what is going on here today is bringing awareness to an ongoing problem and hopefully some level of justice for George and many other families that have been in their same position.

Our mindset and how we approach this situation in the future is key. As sad as it sounds this is far from the end of police brutality in the U.S. As a nation we can be better, we need to be better and by looking out at this crowd today I still hold out hope that one day that will happen.

Once again, I want to thank everyone that made this event possible and everyone here today for peacefully protesting and taking steps toward creating change. Thank you.

Ben Carter, 17, will be a Chaska High School senior next school year. He is a Chaska native who volunteers monthly with the Special Olympics and enjoys golfing, music and photography. He also plays Chaska High School basketball and baseball, and has served as a Peer Tutor.

Community Editor

Mark Olson, the Chaska and Chanhassen community editor who has worked in Carver County for 20 years, makes any excuse to write about local history. In his spare time, Mark enjoys perusing old books, watching blockbusters and taking Midwest road trips.

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