John O’Connor

Can you imagine if dozens of parades took place in Virginia every summer? Not of the July 4 variety, mind you. But rather, to mark General Grant’s victory in the Battle of Appomattox? How do you think many of the locals might respond?

Actually, there’s no need to conjure up a scenario so sure to infuriate. As it happens, something quite similar plays out this time of year in Northern Ireland. There, dozens of “Orange Walks” celebrate Prince William of Orange‘s victory over King James II  at the Battle of the Boyne.

These “walks” can get a bit testy, especially as they sometimes take place in and around Catholic neighborhoods. Critics have said they are sectarian, triumphalist and more than a little mean spirited. Yet they continue on, fueling anger and rage among area Catholics.

While we do not have Orange Walks in America, we do have a recurring phenomenon that victims are tiring of:  White police officers who injure and sometimes kill black men.

Sadly, it is almost impossible to weigh in on such matters without being called a sympathizer for one side or the other.

So let’s just stick with the facts of last week’s episode. Police and rioters have been clashing in Minneapolis and elsewhere following the death of George Floyd. An arresting officer (Derek Chauvin) was recorded kneeling on Floyd’s neck for minutes on end, despite the victim’s repeated pleas he could not breathe.

He has since been fired, and charged with third degree homicide.

By any reasonable standard, Chauvin’s alleged behavior was excessive and unacceptable. By the way, it’s hardly OK for protestors to turn into looters and rioters, either. As the saying goes, two wrongs don’t make a right.

As a white person, it’s hard for me to completely understand the anger, frustration and sense of inequality that must accompany being black in America. I can empathize, but only from a safe distance.

(However, when I think about Protestants triumphantly marching through neighborhoods where I have Catholic Irish relatives, it just about makes my blood boil.)

What does this have to do with long-term care? Maybe not much. But then again, maybe something fundamental.

Chances are that a few and maybe more than a few of your employees are not white. How do you think repeatedly seeing black men get killed by white police officers might make them feel? Hurt? Furious? Betrayed? All of the above? 

Solving America’s race-relations problem is way above my pay grade. But for what it’s worth, here’s some unsolicited advice. If one or more of your black employees currently seems a bit less pleasant than usual, this might be a good time to cut that person a little slack.

Who knows what she or he is going through? If you’re white, you probably have no idea.

 John O’Connor is Editorial Director for McKnight’s