The reaction to the tragic death of George Floyd has continued to be felt worldwide. Protests, as well statements on social media, were seen prominently in the aftermath. For former University of Hawaii offensive lineman RJ Hollis, the past two weeks have hit close to home as a black man in America.
“It not only breaks your heart for George Floyd, the situation that happened, but it breaks your heart for the movement because you know if you fight fire with fire, it’s only gonna produce more fire,” Hollis told KHON2 sports director Rob DeMello. “If people are showing up to these protests and not being peaceful and trying to incite violence, trying to incite anger, it’s never going to get any better and the heavy-hearted part of that is all of this has been going on since before I was born.”
Hollis, who was born and raised in Alabama, graduated high school and went to junior college in Arizona before suiting up for UH from 2013 to 2016. He’s experienced racism and has been mistreated and misunderstood for the color of his skin in the past.
“You don’t want to be in the position you’re in but no matter what you do, no matter how you act, no matter what sport you play, how many offers you get, no matter what your GPA is, you’ll always be looked at a certain way because of your genetic makeup and what makes your skin,” he said. “I think that realization is truly the hardest thing to deal with when it comes to racism is that you can’t help the skin you’re in. You have to feel this indoctrinated hate and it’s something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, and that’s just being honest.”
All 50 states have held protests following the death of Floyd in hopes of fighting racial inequality in the country. The hope to many is that progress towards on that end remains prominent in the future as well. To Hollis, who has made Hawaii his home, he feels as though he’s in the right place in that regard.
“My family members always ask me: ‘Are you moving back to the mainland?’ No is typically my answer because the place that I’m in now, the acceptance to come to a place like Hawaii, they will get to know who you are, they will get to know your actions and know what you are about before they make the judgement,” Hollis said. “It’s never been about black vs. white or race vs. a race. It’s been about racists vs. non-racists. It’s been about love vs. hate.
“It’s been about ‘I’m gonna teach my kids to accept people for who they are and judge them based off their personal actions.’ So you gotta know the power is in the heart and right now, I’m seeing that people are starting to get this message so that makes me very hopeful. That makes me very hopeful and living out in Hawaii, that makes me even more hopeful.”