I see the pain masked as anger online and there is overwhelming sadness. It’s the rage that comes out and the blind prejudice that allows people I love and admire to forget that someone’s child was involved in their stereotypes. We’re losing parents, children, siblings, relatives and friends. There’s no justification, but there is plenty of pain. I won’t tell you how to grieve because there is honor in recognizing our collective loss. Hate doesn’t serve as much as hinder your ability to create the change you want to see.
I had a consultation with an attorney once and I was asked if the situation I was seeing him about was racially motivated. It wasn’t. It was just a case of someone needing to see that they did something wrong. There’s blissful ignorance in being raised where and when I was. I couldn’t see race unless it was right in front of me. I heard about the KKK being in Glendale and San Diego, but I didn’t see it growing up. There was racial tension but it wasn’t black and white in my youth. I once visited a courthouse in Texas where two water fountains still stood. The label for who could use it was long gone, but the condition of the fountains made it plain to see which was once only for colored. My Dad could tell you about the fear he grew up in and specific people lost to racial hate as he was growing up. We were all kids perpetuating someone else’s hate. Well, we were all kids. I straddle too many identities to claim ownership of a racial bias and be proud of it. I try to be open to diversity because it’s who I am.
For a while after the latest major shooting when the police were a constant presence in my son’s school, I would intentionally take my son to the officers and make sure he saw me say, “thank you for your service.” Anyone in uniform close enough to appreciate gets a moment of my time, and firefighters get my gratitude for the firehouse that saved Kid3 from a near drowning and I do this no matter who is with me or watching. My boys have seen me buy the coffee the officers behind me ordered in the Starbuck’s drive-thru. I hope to teach my kids that it’s best to follow the rules and guidelines that keep them away from the focus of police, but that in an emergency, they are the ones we turn to. In peace, they are the ones that used to hand out baseball cards and stickers. They ran the drug intervention program that encouraged us to D.A.R.E. to say No to Drugs.
Yes, there are stereotypes and it would appear that these people have become targets. A critical eye would show you that there have been other people abused but rather than looking black, they look like people with mental illness and drug dependencies. You can’t see it because we’ve been gaslighted by the media. They cover what they want us to see because sensationalized news brings in viewers that will spike marketing revenue. It’s all senseless tragedy, but there is value in the way we are shown what they want us to see and they know how to monetize it. That’s why most reporters would make great fantasy material if you need more than a one-handed read for satisfaction.
My children were surprised that they are black too. One summer of sunbathing and Kid3 was shocked that Kid2 looked black. His Dad pointed to me and it suddenly clicked but my kids were all awestruck by the idea that they are black because I am. Their Dad is Irish and Dutch and his family name is the name of the River that Shakespeare was born on. My family is also mixed. My mother is from the countryside in Thailand. My Dad has a heritage that dilutes his African blood into Mexico and Ireland with Choctaw Indian tribes and Sephardic Jewish traditions and was born in Houston. His skin looks black but when my Grandmother passed, she looked caucasian from spending so much time out of the sun. As a surrogate I gave birth to Muslim arab girls with fair skin and dark hair, a British American blue eyed and blonde haired boy and a sandy haired, fair skinned Jew. I am mother and daughter and friend to so many nations that I can’t see this problem as entirely racial.
It’s about power and fear and the fact that policemen were made of murderers. The power we bestow is not a pressure that everyone is meant to be burdened by. Ben Parker once told his nephew that “with great power comes great responsibility.” I believe that. (It may or may not be a Spider Man reference.)It’s not in the guns we give but the expectations we have. We expect our officers to put their lives in danger and to rescue us in times when our worlds are collapsing. They are expected to be hero and therapist and defender. They see the vilest capabilities of humanity and are expected to remain level headed because we expect more from them than we would from ourselves. I can’t justify the terrible loss that our nation suffers with every unfortunate and senseless loss of life, but I will not vilify every single human being that chooses duty beyond my capabilities and comprehension. It’s not every officer. It’s not race as much as power and the ability to dominate another human being while facing real and irrational fears.
I live in the United States. We’re not used to people being beheaded or street bombs killing large groups. While we have soldiers serving outside of our country, we are shielded from the realities of war and the scars that live underneath the surface for our soldiers. Every single one matters because this is not our normal. This is not acceptable.
Black lives matter. So do female lives, and gay lives. So do the lives of the mentally disabled and the lives of the people that end up on a dangerous street without street knowledge. Your neighbor’s lives matter. The kids that could use intervention instead of your fear . . . their lives also matter. Police and military lives matter. Homeless lives matter. Life matters.
It’s not enough to march and yell and intimidate others to get our point across. Change starts in the individual and the learning by example we give our children. Learn to love what you don’t understand and the fear and hate will have nowhere to go.