We Asked New Yorkers: After the Shootings, How Do We Unite?

By Chika Dunu, Epoch Times
July 12, 2016 Last Updated: July 14, 2016

In the wake of recent tragedies throughout the nation, the United States appears to be struggling to find a solution to the divisions in society. Epoch Times visited Bryant Park and asked New Yorkers: “In the wake of recent shootings, how do we as a nation unite?” and “If you were to sit with government officials, what advice would you give them on how to bring the nation together?”

Aaron Reyes, 22, Queens

Aaron Reyes. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
Aaron Reyes, 22, lives in Queens. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

“Honestly, first we really shouldn’t divide everyone into separate groups. The grouping has to go away, because to be perfectly honest, what makes you different from me besides skin? We have the same hands, same fingers, same legs—it shouldn’t matter, as far as that.

“So first we have to figure out that we are the same person, then we can honestly move on to better things. Try to become better at certain things—science, health, math, anything that’ll expand us as a race. Because we are one race, we are not separate. I think the first step is to try to eliminate the word race itself.”

Antonio Matthis, 21, Queens

Antonio Matthis, 21, lives in Queens, New York. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
Antonio Matthis, 21, lives in Queens, New York. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

“There are many steps that need to be taken but one thing we all need to do first is to see from the other person’s perspective. [I’m] not saying see from another hate perspective, but from everyone that was hurt. All the families that lost family members, the black family members of the innocent that were killed, the innocent cops that were killed. And try to come to a standpoint of peace from there.”

Lindsay Pasternack, 26, Manhattan

Lindsay Pasternack, 26, lives in New York. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
Lindsay Pasternack, 26, lives in New York. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

“The gun laws are out of control at this point. I understand why they’re accessible for certain things but it shouldn’t be so easy for somebody to walk in and buy a gun in five seconds. It’s kind of outrageous, so that’s my main concern. It’s just been like every day on the news and there is something new [that’s happened] and it’s all about race.

“Seriously, I was watching the news yesterday and there was a girl that posted a picture of a potato, and she said that people are just like potatoes—when you remove the skin, we’re all the same. I was like, wow, it’s amazing a little girl wrote that on Snapchat. If little kids are that smart, come on people.”

Charles Wilson, Staten Island

Charles Wilson. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
Charles Wilson. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

“You’re dividing yourself if you’re not able to comprehend it or understand it. So take the time and initiative to educate yourself and do your own research. In terms of uniting people, educate yourself.”

Gillian Ifill

Gillian Ifill. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
Gillian Ifill. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

“I think how to unite the nation is a very big problem that we have. It’s not a problem that we ourselves can solve. The great way to unite the nation is for the nation to come together in prayer.”

Tyler Gluck, 21, Long Island

Tyler Gluck. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
Tyler Gluck. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

“I think everything is centered around hatred; everything is revenge. Once you get someone, they want to get back. It’s got to stop, [we’ve] got to break the cycle. If you do that, then that’s the first step you can take to actually stopping or trying to deter the violence.”

Jack Shanahan, 34, Brooklyn

Jack Shanahan, 34, from Brooklyn, works as cinematographer. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
Jack Shanahan, 34, from Brooklyn, works as cinematographer. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

“I would unite the nation by limiting the access to guns. I don’t think it’s necessary for police to have guns and I don’t think it’s necessary for citizens to have guns. I mean, look at Europe—unless you’re in a volatile place in Europe, you don’t see police with guns. They don’t have the same mass shooting problems that we do. The prevailing thing for me and the common denominator for me is guns. I think it’s worth attacking the gun situation.

“And obviously racism is an issue. I would say racism is a harder issue and one that is going to take more time. Hopefully we’ll head in the right direction there too. But I don’t think it’s necessary for people to have guns and especially not assault weapons. It’s so unnecessary and the cost benefit is not there.”

Jack Freemen, 54, Brooklyn

Jack Freemen, 54, lives in Brooklyn, New York and is an unemployed Swiss watch maker. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
Jack Freemen, 54, lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is an unemployed Swiss watch maker. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

“We need to talk, a lot of people are not talking. Before this ‘Black Lives Matter’ thing happened, everybody always said it’s us and them. There is not enough community anymore. The world has gone into a silence. You listen to your CD on ear plugs. You don’t hear about communities talking, you don’t hear about group meetings. There is no such thing as a group anymore.

“I think that those in charge of politics don’t want people to talk. If you had people talking then the people who are running for president are people that you would say represent me. But nobody knows who they are. They don’t want us to talk, they don’t want us to have what makes a democracy work. They just don’t. So what’s going to happen?

“Everybody makes assumptions: you don’t like me, I don’t like you. Everybody has to work, everybody has to make a living. Business has gone in the direction of just giving you enough to survive—no benefits, sorry. Is that a free economy? Where is the American Dream of building a retirement, of letting people know that I have a certain amount of pride because when I come home at night—black or white—my wife looks at me and says, ‘Twenty years from now, we’ll have a nice retirement.’

“The American Dream is dead. Businesses have gone the wrong way. You need more laws to have businesses provide retirement and benefits for people. I saw the big banks fall and have to rely on the American taxpayers to bail them out. Where is their punishment?

“Want a free society? Make sure everybody has a job, everybody has pride. If everybody has a job and everybody is working and everybody is making their wife or their husband happy—you’re not interested in fighting. I’m too busy having fun. So thank you very much big business for not giving what people basically need to live: a safe job with retirement that you don’t have to worry about and medical coverage. Jobs, jobs, jobs. Bring back jobs.”

Courtney Teece, Buffalo, N.Y.

Courtney Teece, lives in Buffalo, N.Y. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
Courtney Teece, lives in Buffalo, N.Y. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

“I think the parties need to stop going against each other. They’re meant to show two different sides but they need to work together rather than being so opposed to each other. I think some more gun laws would help, maybe not too strict, but some laws definitely would help.”

Andy Mutchler, 67

“Get rid of the politics, talk from the heart. Forget what’s going to get you [voted in as] president of the United States. I think we all got to get together. Do black lives matter? Of course, but all lives matter. I don’t think it just should be specified as one. Are all cops crooks? No, but there are some bad apples. We all have to face all that. I just say speak honestly, from the heart. Stop all this protesting and let’s work together. And keep the politics out.”

Cristal Gonzalez, 32, The Bronx 

“It’s tough. I think it’s really just a matter of tolerance and understanding that not everything is so black and white. We just need to care about each other and understand not all cops are good, and not all cops are bad. Not all black people are good or bad. We’re all different. We just need to be tolerant. I mean what else can we do—just educate each other. That’s it.”

Wendy Byrne, 76, Manhattan

“I don’t know how it can be fixed. I certainly hope so, I mean, we have to. We have to live together no matter what our religion, or color, or ethnicity is. We’ve got to, I mean that’s what our world is about. I don’t know if it’s gonna start with the government. I think it has got to be with each one of us—in churches, in schools, it’s got start in the homes for people to be more accepting of each other. But not everybody is religious, not everybody believes in God and we still have to all accept each other like our next door neighbors.”

Nikki Sugden, Briton living in Hong Kong

Nikki Sugden. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
Nikki Sugden. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

“It’s a lot of turmoil across the country. Plus we have our own turmoil in our country [the U.K.] and it seems to be all happening at the same time, it’s pretty awful. I’m just comparing our politics at the moment, I’m not sure who’s got the worse politics at the moment. Our country is disintegrating and this one is getting more violent. Get rid of the Donalds, get rid of the guns. That would be it.”

Haruka Juang, 25, Taiwan

Haruka Juang, 25, from Taiwan, works as a social media strategist. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
Haruka Juang, 25, from Taiwan, works as a social media strategist. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

“I would say people just need to be more open-minded and be kind to each other and understand different perspectives, to think about each other and to be peaceful.”