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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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8 Comments


Lalith Jayasinghe
Lalith Jayasinghe
Jun 02, 2020

Thank you Don for your well written honest and open analysis/commentary and powerful images. You are articulating some really crucial points that a lot of people need to hear. I think, this is an excellent piece and should be published somewhere (at National level) for a wider audience to read. I also applaud you for joining the protest with your daughter.

It’s heart breaking to watch – I am kind of lost for words.

I was fortunate enough to come to this country about 40 years ago to go to Graduate School and we have decided to stay here because we love this country –Our son was born here, we are US citizens and this is our home now! This…

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Don Toothaker
Don Toothaker
Jan 09
Replying to

Oh Lalith... Thank you a thousand times for this response. I fear that you are right; some people do bad things since historically they DID get away with it. But, I dearly hope that is changing. day by day, week by week, month by month. I hope the next generation of leaders finally gets it as right as it should be.


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Thomas MacMillan
Thomas MacMillan
Jun 02, 2020

thank you for sharing your words and images. we all need to act up and to speak out.

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Don Toothaker
Don Toothaker
Jan 09
Replying to

Many many thanks for this comment Thomas

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judithmlawler
Jun 02, 2020

Don, thank you for your thoughts and putting into context with your photos these very difficult time in our U.S.A. The photos so represent the heart of the purpose of the demonstration . . . to give voice to the inequalities and injustice faced by people of color . . . "The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children". (Bonhoeffer)

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Don Toothaker
Don Toothaker
Jan 09
Replying to

Thank you Judy. The quote you shared is spot on and SHOULD be our guiding light at all times; in all ways.

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Deb Connolly McCarthy
Deb Connolly McCarthy
Jun 02, 2020

Your words and your photos are so powerful. Thank you.

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Don Toothaker
Don Toothaker
Jan 09
Replying to

Thank you Deb, so very much.

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