The primary may or may not be over – this article is being written Monday. I suspect that it’s possible massive changes in voting – coupled with a pandemic the likes of which this country has not seen in a century – could cause disruptions. If so, my heart goes out to Karyn Douglas and poll workers who do a wonderful job election after election. If not, then a real Honest Hoosier tip of the seed corn cap to Ms. Douglas and her helpers for averting what could have been a mess.
And whenever the results are officially final, congrats to the winners and losers. More tips from that seed corn cap should go to both. It takes gumption to run for office in today’s world (at least it does for those who truly campaign and don’t just ask voters to give their tallies to someone else). So thank you to all who stepped up.
Normally, at least for a little while, we would be waxing poetic about those results. To be sure, there are some interesting story lines out there.
But like a lot of you, I have sat in utter amazement, watching everything from peaceful demonstrations by those moved to protest, to riots and looting by common criminals. And like so many of you, I am shocked it’s happening right here in our capitol city. However, unlike many of my colleagues in the media world, I do not pretend to have any answers.
Only questions.
Years ago, I worked for a guy I looked up to immensely. His name is Charles Pittman. He’s retired now, but back then he was my boss – well, my boss’ boss. We worked together on several projects and it didn’t take long to see how he got to where he was in the business world.
From the time he was tearing up opponents on a football field – enough so that he was one of the stars of legendary coach Joe Paterno’s first recruiting class – to when his career ended in the NFL, Charles Pittman was a winner. Why do some guys have that little something extra and some don’t? I don’t know that answer either. Some just do, and Charles did.
One time we were on a road trip, driving from South Bend to another newspaper a few hours away. With some time to talk, I asked him why we couldn’t seem to solve the race issue in our country.
Did I mention his race?
Charles didn’t blow my question off, nor did he take offense – at least I don’t think he did. Instead, he gave me what I believe was a very honest answer. He said I wouldn’t be able to understand.
Really understand.
I’ve told this story a time or two, and the reaction from folks who look like me at this point is usually a rolling of the eyes. They believe, like I do, that they are not racists.
Besides, I may not be the smartest guy in the room, but I might not be the dumbest either. Chances are I can wrap my arms around something if someone gives me a reasonable enough explanation.
Except Charles was right.
He explained that you have to experience racism in order to understand it. He said that unless you have been in those shoes, there’s simply no way to get it.
The point was made clear on the return trip.
Charles was driving. I don’t remember what sort of SUV he had, but it was a nice one – really nice. Somewhere between Kokomo and South Bend we got pulled over. Charles was driving a few miles an hour over the speed limit – although not as fast as I usually drove.
My first thought was the same as it would have been if I had been driving – oh crap! After all, who wants a costly speeding ticket?
But when the officer came up to the vehicle, it wasn’t the same at all. There was no “Good afternoon sir. License and registration please?” Oh, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t awful either. The tone was different. The feel was different. And I will not forget that the officer asked if the vehicle belonged to Charles.
I’ve never once been asked that question any time I’ve been stopped.
I’m a white guy. Charles is African-American.
We didn’t talk about it the rest of the way home. Charles didn’t jump up and say, “See, that’s what I mean!”
But it made me understand that he was right. I can’t understand what that feels like.
Look, there are some things that we should stop ignoring. We should stop ignoring stupidity and hatred. We should stop ignoring injustices. We should stop pretending there isn’t a problem because we don’t believe there is.
Would the cop have put his knee on a white guy’s neck?
Let’s not get sidetracked with a lot of other issues – issues that cause more disagreements than accord. Let’s just stay with that one question – would the cop do that to a white guy?
Of course there’s no way to know, is there? But I think most of us guess he would not have. And I think most of us are glad he will have his day in court to convince a panel of his peers of his innocence or guilt. Does he look guilty from here? Of course he does, but that’s not the way our system works.
And let me be clear on something else. I’ve worked at newspapers in multiple states and worked with local, county and state police in each one. I have always found the vast (and when I say vast we’re talking a percentage number that begins with a nine), majority of cops to be good folks. No, check that. Most are great folks. Most are my heroes. They do work a lot of us wouldn’t have the guts or even the physical ability to do.
So nothing in this is to denigrate cops or their fine work. Just as none of this is meant to denigrate anyone of color.
Isn’t it ironic though that after so many black people have been shot by police that some people who are not of color are starting to look at cops a little differently? Isn’t it ironic that people who look like me might not feel really safe walking around Indianapolis, a city many of us have spent a good part of our lives around?
Ironic? Maybe. But if irony is what it takes to move us along a better path, then let the irony begin.

Two cents, which is about how much Timmons said his columns are worth, appears periodically in The Times. Timmons is the CEO of Sagamore News Media and can be contacted at ttimmons@thetimes24-7.com.