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  • Writer's pictureDon Toothaker

We The People

Updated: Jun 2, 2020

There is a cancer in our country that continues to grow. Sadly, this destructive cancer, racism, was detected centuries ago, but continues to blight our country and weaken us as a whole because we let it. Racism does not effect a singular race; it effects all people. Once and for all it is time for a cure.

On Sunday night, May 31st, I drove into Boston to observe and photograph the peaceful protest scheduled to take place in front of the Massachusetts State House in response to the killing of George Floyd of Minneapolis. George Floyd, a black man, was killed on May 25th by a white police officer. A white cop killed a black man. Tragically, and reprehensibly, this story keeps re-writing itself across America with only the names changing; the colors of the offenders and victims remain the same. Mr. Floyd’s heinous killing has spurred outrage resulting in protests that, while peaceful in intent and beginnings, turn violent. Cities such as Minneapolis, Los Angeles, New York City, and now Boston have echoed with the justifiably incensed voices of many and, sadly, felt the destructive power of a few.

The daily news covers the protests with a constant buzz that, quite frankly, merely became cluttered white noise that I could no longer hear; I needed to see. Knowing full well the protest would turn into a night of turmoil I questioned going, but when my 18-year-old daughter announced her intent to be there I had no choice but to proudly take her, help ensure her safety, and (hopefully) lead by good example. I brought my cameras to capture images of the setting, the mood, and the power of community. I am glad I did. I do not work for a newspaper, a newswire, or a magazine, but as a photographer it is in my soul to create images that tell a story; no matter what the story is or how uncomfortable it may be. I went with an open heart prepared for a night full of energy and tension. I left a few hours later a bit bruised, more understanding, and emotionally drained. I no longer need the news to enlighten me to the unrest created by the shameful killing of George Floyd and many other black men. I no longer need to wonder what changes must take place in our country or debate the situation with anyone. I saw first-hand the pent up angst and rage gripping our country and what I saw goes far beyond one angry week and one unlawful killing. What I photographed in only three and a half hours represents many decades and generations of systematic inequality and injustice.

I share my experience here with a heavy heart. I am proud of the photographs, but I am ashamed that there is a continued reason to capture such images. We claim to be better than this yet here we are again. We speak the right words about freedom and justice and democracy yet our actions do not represent what we speak. I am not black and therefore cannot relate to the happenings, emotions, injustices, and subsequent jaded bitterness of an entire race. I cannot have empathy or sympathy or even possibly say I understand because I have never endured the painfully obvious injustice that America continues to harbor toward race. I can do nothing but post my images here, intentionally captured in black and white, to illustrate that we are all part of this together. Strip away color and I assure you we are all the same underneath. We, the people, need to cure this cancer once and for all and prove, with action not words, that men like George Floyd, and people of every color, are created equally and never disposable.

Photograph What You Feel

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