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Idaho Black History Museum director speaks out on George Floyd's death, local police and growing up black

"You have to be twice as good to be considered half as good," said Philip Thompson, recalling something his mother told him.

BOISE, Idaho — Philip Thompson is the executive director of Idaho's Black History Museum. He is also the son of local activist and former Idaho senator Cherie Buckner-Webb. 

Thompson and his family have been in Boise for over seven generations as part of the 1.5% black population that makes up the city. After the recent death of George Floyd and the Minneapolis protests that followed, Thompson sat down with KTVB's Brian Holmes to express his thoughts about Floyd's death.

"To me, it's kind of like the pressure cooker has blown up, and we've been heading towards this for quite some time," Thompson said.

Thompson said Minnesota is unique in the fact that the events transpiring are similar to a "case study". Thompson says we should compare the national reaction of the lockdown protests to the national reaction of the police brutality protests.

"The answer was more brutality," Thompson said. "That speaks volumes about blacks in America."

Derek Chauvin, former Minneapolis police officer involved in the death of Floyd, was arrested on Friday on charges of third-degree murder and manslaughter. However, Thompson said there is still much more that needs to be done.

"(Chauvin's arrest) is indicative of a much bigger systemic problem," Thompson said. 

Chauvin's actions are "captured moments" of what actually transpired between him and Floyd on the day of Floyd's death, according to Thompson. He said that police brutality is a common occurrence for black individuals and people of color (POC).

The difference? We are seeing an increase in the incidents being captured on film, without a decrease in the incidents themselves.

Local law enforcement have recently spoken out and condemned Chauvin's actions. Thompson said that, while Boise is a gorgeous place, our history is unique in the fact that we, too, are like a case study.

"You look 30 to 40 years ago to the early 90s, we had our issues with policing, but it wasn't predicated on race because there has always been such a small black population here," Thompson said. "But we had poor policing methods in place in Boise, Idaho."

From the 90s to now, Boise's policing methods are nothing like they used to be, according to Thompson. He says he has nothing but good things to say about Boise's standard of police work from the last five to 10 years.

However, Thompson feels that the Boise Police Department is a unique exception.

"I'm not vilifying all police," Thompson said. "I'm simply saying that our police department has made an effort to be ahead of the curve, and to make for certain that they address these problems before they stem, and try to get to the root of the problem."

As a young black man, Thompson said growing up in Idaho did not come without its challenges.

"The first thing I remember my mom always telling us is you have to be twice as good to be considered half as good," Thompson said. "My mom never let it go unspoken that you will not be judged the same way as those with you if you are the only black one. Expect it, deal with it and navigate the role accordingly."

Thompson also spoke about those who do not believe inequality exists in Idaho simply because they have never seen it. He says being bling to inequality is a luxury that some people have.

"I've never seen a lot of things, but I'm not going to question its existence," Thompson said. "I've never seen nuclear fission, but I know it works. But these acts of violence; at least we no longer have to convince you that they're happening."

Thompson feels that people need to understand that police brutality and injustices are not a new occurrence. The only new occurrence is the ability to capture these injustices with our smartphones.

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