I had a twenty-year career in law enforcement with the Customs Service. As far as I could tell, Customs officers only made the headlines when one of them was caught helping smugglers get guns or drugs across a border. Whenever that happened, which was rare, we were all embarrassed.
Today, at the height of the anger rising out of the death of George Floyd, the media’s been reporting on the slow response of prosecutors. There’s been very little said about the reaction by police officers across the country. Reports exist, but you have to do some serious searching to find them. The people in uniform have been embarrassed. They are making statements, and they are even joining the protesters.
There is a lot of talk now about legacy. I grew up in a world where everyone seemed to be conscious of differences between themselves and others. The differences were racial, or religious, or simply other nationalities. And women were expected to accept lower pay and to do what they were told. In most marriages, during my early years, the bride promised to obey her husband.
We seem to be headed into a better world. There are occasional bumps. We’re experiencing a couple of them now. But in twenty years, when another generation of adults have arrived, those who are our kids now, how will they remember us? That will be our legacy. And it won’t be much about money or where we lived. It’ll be whether we were idiots. Were we racists? Did we tell the women in our lives to shut up? Did we stand by and watch while people from a different background were defamed? Or physically attacked?
Where were we when it mattered?