SALT LAKE CITY — A black Utah Highway Patrol trooper said he has been dealing with racism all of his life, but with the George Floyd-inspired protests, he sees both sides of the story.
Trooper Ivan Lofton grew up in Missouri, a place where he said racism was more prevalent than here in Utah.
“Yelling get that 'n-word,' referring to me,” said Lofton, remembering a high school football game. “It hasn’t been just this week for a lot of people.”
Despite not seeing a lot of African Americans in law enforcement in his hometown, Lofton said he wanted to help people and make his family proud.
“To be right and do right by people, no matter what,” said Lofton. “To speak up when things get bad and be that leader.”
That’s what Lofton has tried to do — especially while handling the recent protests against police brutality in Salt Lake City.
UHP troopers have stood guard at the Utah State Capitol almost daily for the past week. On Thursday, during one of the larger gatherings, Lofton and his fellow troopers stood in a line while protesters stood on the other side.
“I saw people getting agitated a little bit,” said Lofton. “I felt I was the right one to go down there and talk, to help settle tempers.”
Walking to the base of the front steps of the Capitol, Lofton spoke with protesters even though they continued to yell at police.
Even within his own community and family, Lofton said it’s hard for people to understand why he is a black man, living a blue life.
“I’ve had family — not my immediate family — post that there are no good cops in this world, all cops are bad,” said Lofton. “I’ve seen one post that says black men in law enforcement are the weakest men in the world.”
Just because he puts on a uniform every day, Lofton said, doesn’t mean he has forgotten his family and culture.
“I’m a minority, I’m a black man first,” said Lofton.
In the two years he’s been with UHP, Lofton said he’s also seen plenty of racism focused towards him while off-duty.
“When I’m in uniform, everyone comes up and says 'Thank you, I appreciate your service,'” said Lofton. “When I’m in my Nikes in a white t-shirt, the stuff I wear off duty, they look down at me and have smart remarks.”
There’s a lot to be fixed in American society, said Lofton, but he said we’re on the right path.
He hopes as people engage in difficult conversations to have, that communities and hearts can be changed to get rid of racism.
“We need to stop using hate, we need to spread love a little bit,” said Lofton.
Killing an officer will not bring George Floyd back, and hurting a protester will not stop protesters from marching, said Lofton.
“I’m not saying don’t be angry,” said Lofton. “I’m saying we need to uplift and change the narrative.”