Thoughts on the Killing of George Floyd

30 comments / Posted on / by

Photo by Chad Brown

By Chad Brown

Editors Note: I am sharing this piece because I think it’s important, it’s brave, and it’s something you need to hear. I am sharing it today, in observance of Juneteenth, to honor those Americans who were victims of slavery, and their descendants who live with it’s legacy. 

Let me make two thing clear. 

This is not political, it is moral. Share your morality but keep you politics to yourself.

I know from personal experience there will be negative feed back to this posting. There are racist among us. I do not have the power to change that, nor do you. All we can do is stand up and have hope for the future. I am counting on those who have hope to stand up. Please share a message of support in the comments so that our voices are heard above the hate.

Thank you,  Louis Cahill

Wait before you judge. Take a deep breath. Because you can.

In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, I’ve seen countless people on social media expressing their rage — not about George’s death or about the underlying problem of inequality in our country — but about looting and physical damage to property.

I don’t support property destruction, but when there is a riot, there is no rule book.

As Dr. Martin Luther King said, “A riot is nothing but the voice of the unheard.”

The death of George Floyd is a horrific loss that has shined a spotlight on the systemic racism present not just in our nation’s police departments, but in our day-to-day lives, in our schools, offices, court systems, and elsewhere. It has highlighted the tension between white and non-white people in the United States. It has offered us a moment to pause and listen to the unheard voices of America — the voices of indigenous women missing and murdered on their own land, indigenous tribes fighting for their water rights (and losing), Hispanics facing the challenges of maintaining their identity and making a living through low-paid jobs, African Americans asking for equality and justice while seeing black boys and girls getting killed by merciless cops.

The reality of being black in America is being born with a target on you. You can’t separate from this target. It follows you wherever you go. Every time you step outside, your target is visible. You’re judged, spat on, called “nigger” time after time. You walk into a store or office and are falsely accused of a crime. You’re subject to traffic stops simply for being in the “wrong” neighborhood, and then you get harassed by the cops.

Once, when I was pulled over, the cop asked me if I was a U.S. citizen even though my driver’s license clearly indicates that I’m a United States veteran. My car tires have been slashed while fly fishing. Once, while I was fishing on Veteran’s Day, my brake lines were ripped out of my truck.

On social media, I have been publicly accused of “taking” fly fishing from white people. I’ve been told “This is our sport not yours!” and “You need to ask permission to fish my river!” I have received threatening phone calls where I was told I will be drowned the next time I try to fly fish.

We all love the outdoors and, as Americans, nature is free for us to enjoy. But nature is not free for me the same way it is for white people. I wish I could feel completely at ease when I’m outdoors. I wish I could simply enjoy nature and find healing instead of worrying about my safety—especially when I’m outdoors alone. I still feel I have to earn my right to enjoy the outdoors and struggle to find access that doesn’t leave me feeling uncomfortable in wild spaces.

When I served my country in the U.S. Navy, in countries like Kuwait, Somalia and Cuba, I had to live my life in a flak jacket, my weapon close to my body at all times. I learned to sleep with one eye open. Every veteran knows this wartime mentality, it allows us to function under stressful situations and protect ourselves and our fellow soldiers from the enemy.

George was publicly lynched—the worst fear of any black person. Lynching is historical and has been embedded into black lives. It could happen to any black boy, man, girl, or woman. The death of George Floyd makes the already present fear that I am living one degree away of what George had to face even more real. I could be George Floyd. Any black male could be George Floyd. This reality fills me with rage, and leaves me sad and heartbroken.

But this is where we are today.

This is why I have to don my flack jacket and holster my weapon to go to a beautiful place on public lands that nature has provided for all of us—for every soul, young, old, black, brown and white. I fought for freedom alongside others who gave their lives but, sadly, as a black man, I have to protect myself when I go to the river to find my own freedom, joy, solitude and healing.

Systemic racism is everywhere, even in the outdoor industry. Even though there are many non-white experts of the outdoors, they aren’t often identified by the media and overlooked by outdoor companies and conservation groups. People of color are rarely invited to be part of these organizations other than, perhaps, being invited to a panel discussion or being mentioned in blog posts. These gestures to include brown and black folks too often just serve the purpose of checking off the box of political correctness. Indigenous communities and all people of color need to be heard and listened to when it comes to outdoor recreation, policy making, and nature conservancy. We should not be told what sports are suitable for us, how we are supposed to function or what we are supposed to wear or eat when we are outdoors.

Chad Serving His Country

George Floyd’s death has provided us an opportunity to step back and really look at why all of this is happening. It is our opportunity to create alliances and new friends and to learn from one another to build better and safer communities—both in the urban and the outdoor worlds. This is our opportunity to dismantle racism and lean into creating communities with strength that will support our youth for tomorrow.

We are all now bearing witness to a relic of the old world. Racism is the foundation on which our nation was built and it has never left us. When will we break the cycle of generational poison? When? We are all humans, but we will be all only when we have accepted all races as human.

Right now we do not. Right now blacks are separated. Right now blacks are being murdered and there is no justice.

White folks have the choice to not participate. White privilege provides one option to not fight for what is right. But white people also have the choice to lean into their privilege and use it to build a bridge to stronger communities, to make all humans a race of one.

Our nation is crippled. Our leaders are not leading the nation but dividing it. Voices diverse in races and gender are not being heard. We are facing darkness together and the one light we have is our love. Where is our love for one another? It is easy to point the finger and charge by forward with hate. But loving takes a deeper strength and maturity.

Our long-established system needs to be dismantled and rebuilt to fit today. Yesterday does not work. We need equality. We need justice. We need a leader who hears the voices of pain.


Chad Brown is the founder of Soul River a nonprofit 501 c3 focused on bringing inner city youth together with veterans, as mentors, in the outdoors.

Chad Brown
Gink & Gasoline
Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter!

Follow Gink & Gasoline on Facebook:

30 thoughts on “Thoughts on the Killing of George Floyd

  1. Thank you for posting this. Second time reading it and it’s even more powerful and moving today. And I appreciate your statement that this is moral, not political. I hope everyone can see that and take a moment to listen to a fellow fly fisherman who needs to be heard right now.

  2. Chad, thank you for your honesty and service. I am deeply saddened and embarrassed over the systemic racism that has always existed in the United States. I pray that it will end in my lifetime.

  3. Right on, Bro. Thank you for sharing. Too many people afraid to take a moral stand these days. I really appreciate your stepping up.

  4. Might I recommend: White Fragility – Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo.

  5. Commenting because it’s important to show that the knuckleheads are the minority. I’m honored and humbled to read this and I hope that real change happens soon. I know I need to take a long hard look in the mirror to figure out how I can be part of the solution, not the problem.

  6. Thank you Chad and Lewis. There’s been a similar thread running on the Trout Unlimited message board. You will prevail.

  7. As the beneficiary of unasked-for white male privilege my whole life, I have no grounds to speak. Instead, it is now my time to listen. It is now my time to try to understand life in another’s shoes and to examine my moral responsibilities. It is now my time to do what is right. I’d like to think that I always have, but, still, an honest examination is warranted. It is for each and every one of us.

    Thank you, Chad, for your service, both in uniform and in this piece. You have my respect, sir.

  8. Thank you Chad for such a thoughtful article. As the owner of multiple fly shops, we do everything that we can to include every person regardless of race. Fishing. is a sport for everyone. Thank you Gink and gasoline for providing a platform for Chad to speak.

    Johnny Spillane

  9. First I would like to say that I have never considered myself a racist, but then I never had to live a single moment of my 76 years fearing having to go to the local Quick Stop at 10:30 at night in an all white neighborhood. I never had to wear a flak jacket and a weapon just to go fly fishing. I never had my brakes destroyed while I was fishing because of the color of my skin. That just plain sucks. Obviously!

    I remember one time several years ago when I and my buddy were steelhead fishing on the Salmon River in northern NY in the winter, and as we were driving to another spot to fish, we saw a car off the road, mired in mud and snow. We stopped to see if we could help. As we approached the vehicle, we noticed that it was a black man, still in his waders. As we neared him, I saw the look on his face. He wasn’t relieved like any white man would be, like “Oh thank God, help has arrived,” Instead, he looked nervous, even a bit frightened. I immediately thought “That is horrible, that he has to fear us and what we might do to him.” Once we made our Intentions clear you could see the relief on his face. We got a bit muddy but somehow we were able to get him back onto the road. He must have thanked us a dozen times. I have never forgotten the look of fear on his face, and I learned a lesson on what blacks go through on a daily basis. I agree with Black Lives Matter and their cause. But, ya know, it’s not up to the Blacks, Hispanics, native Americans, or any ethnic group to seek change. It’s up to the white population to do the work and create change. A lot of people are woofin’ with their mouths, but we need to do it with our hearts and souls. And now! Not tomorrow, or someday, but now!!

    Thanks for this message, Chad. You’ve touched more than a few people, I hope. You’re a good man, and I’d be proud to take you to the Salmon River to hook up with a winter Steelhead any day.

    • Add at my last answer…
      About politic and moral, in France (also in USA?) we say : “goods feelings don’t product good politic…”
      Cheers to every umhörst and specially to Chad
      G. Baudin

  10. Thank you for this article. It’s so sad that good people are treated this way. It’s a shame that he has to wear a jacket and carry a weapon to protect himself, fishing. Chad served his country and helps young people to grow and enjoy the outdoors. This land is here for all of us. I hope we are on the path of all people are equal. It would be an honor to fish with you my brother.

    • Yes, these speeches are important, mostly the Chad one.
      But, if I understand the position of “Gink and Gazoline” which suit for such a website and a lot of them they don’t want hurt their readers, it’s not my position about the difference between moral and politic.
      Yes, as socio-anthropologist, I’ve readen many books and essays about this subject…
      But, finally, this distinction between these two concepts open towards a neutral position, position we know that can accept almost everything and privilégied a very individual ideas and action.
      Also, oppose these two terms means, for me, politicals are in another world… For me, political must be, also, a right person with moral principals.
      G. Baudin, from France

      Envoyé de mon iPad

      • Baudin, thanks for your support. The problem with our politics is not a matter of hurting our readership. Our political system is broken. Political discussions in this country are no longer substantive or productive. The two sides just pour gasoline on themselves and set everything on fire. That is the reason I work so hard to keep politics off the site. It serves only to promote hate and solve nothing. It is the tool our masters use to divide us and I will not help them. I hope things are better in France.

        • Thanks Louis!
          I unterstand your position. Politic divide… Perhaps but we have to think about what, on which fondamental reasons or points. I’m not an extrémist but I always wonder, as social scientist, what is truely the sense of “consensus”. Or Salomon judgment… Consensus means majority? Which %? Consensus on little and évident subjects? I stop here!
          In France, happens nowdays on m’oublie scène the racial question but with different ways than in USA. Burl for me, the question is finally but not only the same and it’s tied with the social problem between poor and rich people. The main difference is the philosophic back ground of each poilitic and institutionnal organization.
          Cheers Louis and thank for “gink & gasoline”!
          G. Baudin

        • Sorry Louis and others!
          For my language mistakes. Except these which are my fault, it’s also automatic correction responsability!!!!
          Thanks to my computer!
          G. Baudin

  11. CHAD – Thank you for educating all of us. I am at a loss for words because I have never walked in your shoes, and I am so sad right now. I’m sad because it has taken bold people like yourself to explain to me what you and so many other Black friends have lived through all your life. The more I read and talk to people, the more clearly I see what I should have seen long ago – I should have been more aware… I am horrified at what I am learning – and you have been living it….and I am so saddened that I didn’t see this before. But we have to meet each other “where we are right now” and change starts now! I will do my best to advocate for justice and equality any way I can in my daily life. (It was a pleasure to have a conversation with you tonight. I am sure that our “meeting” is not a coincidence. We have so many connection points. I hope that I can meet you & Axe one day soon.)

    • Hi Lynn! How nice to see your name pop up in the comments! And what a wonderful comment. I hope you guys are well. thanks for joining the conversation and I hope I see you soon.

  12. You’re not alone man. I dont’t know what it’s like to be black but I’ve been hispanic for 31 years and have experienced racism on many fronts. My dad was born in Mexico and immigrated to America when he was 4 and my mom a white woman was born and raised in Texas. Most people meet me and think I’m just a tan white guy until they find out my name is Estevan Vasquez. I’ve been called a wetback by white people and a cracker by hispanics. I don’t think I experienced true racism until I moved to Louisiana when I was 14 after my mom divorced her third husband. I’ve lived in Texas my whole life and was always surrounded by white black and hispanics but in Louisiana hispanics were far and few between. Most people were always cool too me as long as I stayed in my box but when I stepped out (most particularly started dating white girls) things got ugly. Teachers, office aids, assistant principals, parents started treating me like scum as if I was a lower class of human which in a way I was. Racism doesn’t particularly bother me because I’ve lived with it so long but what really boils my blood is when people act as if it doesn’t exist which even my naive mother is guilty of, I remember telling her about some things people said to me as a child and her telling me I took things the wrong way or people were just joking. I believe these conversations are good for our country but still hate talking about it because explaining racism to some white people can feel like an uphill battle.

  13. Chad, thanks for taking the time to write this, and post it.

    While I was raised in a family where racism wasn’t tolerated, and hope we have done a good job of passing that on. I can’t recall what age I was when I finally understood that some people judged others by the color of their skin, but I remember asking my parents about it…

    I have no way to get the kind of perspective you live every day, but appreciate the glimpse into your life, even for the few minutes it took to read this.

  14. What an important message from Chad and Lewis to all of us, whether we fish or not. No one should be afraid to jog, fish, drive a car, or be human in any society. It is truly time for systemic changes and for eye-opening. Small changes and white resistance will get us nowhere. These are moral issues, as you say, we have to do what is right, not politically expedient. But nooses are still hung and Blacks are still shot— change will not come easily. So good to see so
    Many walking and working in the right direction . Thank you, Chad and Lewis

  15. I apologize for the ignorance and red necks you have encountered . . . you are always welcome in Bozeman to fish with me. Stay strong and like the Obama’s, hold your head high and go through life with class and dignity.

  16. Thank you for sharing this. I have a number of family members who are black and I have never taken the time to ask them what it’s like for them; I think I just assume that because they are family, they are somehow immune to horrors of racism. I will be having a conversation with my niece to learn her perspective as a young, black, female.

  17. It takes courage to post things like this Louis, especially on a blog you’ve been working on so long. I know the fishing community (especially in the south) isn’t the most inclusive group of people out there. Ignoring these issues isn’t quite the same as being a racist but it definetly helps perpetuate it. I appreciate you not keeping your head in the sand like so many people out there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Captcha loading...