Steve Eighinger

Did a new voice of hope arise during recent rioting?

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jun. 2, 2020 12:01 am

What next, America?

Personally, I'm emotionally drained concerning what has unfolded across our country following the death of George Floyd, an African-American man who died last week while in police custody in Minneapolis.

The violence. The looting. And a surreal feeling I had not experienced for more than 50 years.

I sincerely wonder what's next?

Coming of age in the late 1960s and early 1970, I can remember -- and quite vividly -- the nationwide riots tied to both race and U.S. involvement in the war in Vietnam.

But the past few days seemed different than that previous era. There seemed to be a higher level of hostility, and most certainly part of that can be attributed to media coverage. In the late 1960s and early 1970s there were no 24/7 news channels. The reports we received "back in the day" came solely from early-evening newscasters like Walter Cronkite during a half-hour snippet and then a few more minutes on the local news wrap later that night.

Nowadays, we are bombarded, often left almost mesmerized by what is a never-ending barrage of network updates from Fox, CNN and other outlets.

In recent days, however, there has been one voice that has stood out. The mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms, an impassioned African-American woman, delivered an emotional speech at the height of the uprisings urging protesters to go home.

Bottoms has drawn rave reviews for her words, and rightly so. When this current issue is finally resolved, I look for Bottoms to emerge as a key political player on the national level -- and in the not-too-distant future. She appears to be a natural-born leader and convincingly relayed some incredibly important thoughts in front of a national audience.

George Floyd's death was senseless and will be dealt with by the legal system, but the ensuing anarchy and lawlessness served no purpose.

The following is an edited version of a transcript of Bottoms' speech, which occurred late Friday night following the first night of the most serious rioting:

"This is not a protest. This is not in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. This is chaos.

"You're not honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights movement. You're not protesting anything running out (of a looted building) with brown liquor in your hands and breaking windows in this city.

"If you want change in America, go and register to vote! Show up at the polls ... That is the change we need in this country.

"You are disgracing our city, you are disgracing the life of George Floyd and every other person who has been killed in this country.

"We are better than this! We're better than this as a city, we are better than this as a country.

"This is not the legacy of civil rights in America. This is chaos, and we're buying into it. This won't change anything. We're no longer talking about the murder of an innocent man."

Bottoms' words were emotion-packed and heart-felt. They were also right to the point.

I have watched her speech several times. I have read her words even more.

And I hope we hear more from her in both the immediate and long-range future.

Until that time, we need to ask ourselves, what's next America?