I haven’t blogged in three weeks. I’m sure you noticed my silence. At first, there was no blog because I was in Mexico. Then I wanted to write about Mexico and July 4th, but I was getting back into the swing of things with work and simply didn’t have the time. Plus, I was using my mornings to read Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (must read!) and my lunches to workout. I gained some weight in Mexico. That story is for another time.
Then this week, two black men were killed at the hands of trigger-happy cops. Again. One man was approached because he was selling CDs illegally out of a parking lot. Another man was pulled over because his taillight was out. Both men were murdered.
I’ve thought a lot about this. I’ve listened to people say things like, “All life matters.” “This wouldn’t be news if it was a white man.” “If you do something illegal you deserve to be shot.” “If he hadn’t had a gun, he wouldn’t be shot.” (The gun one gets me, because these are some of the same people who said in Orlando, ‘If they’d only had guns…’” And the majority of these people are not for gun control). And I can tell you, that there are those that seek to blame the victim to deflect the real problem here which is racism. Those statements come from a place of white privilege. White privilege exists. Even if you’re poor and white you have white privilege, because of your history and because of the way our society caters to white people. Read Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, and you will get it. I have white privilege and I know it. My children do too. I’m not in the position to understand how the black community feels about this happening. I have never been in their shoes, but I know that this type of careless regard for people of color (POC) is not right. Racism is taught and passed down generation by generation. Often people who are racist don’t see themselves as such.
Covert racism is still racism, even if it isn’t seen as such. Saying that Alton Sterling had a record, or he was selling CDs illegally is besides the point. If a white man was doing that, would he be held down, shot and killed or would he have a chance to be arrested and go to trial? And Philando Castile? He told the officer he had a gun in the car, reached for his license and was shot in the arm—for what? For being truthful? In front of his wife and child. If you have seen that video, or if you have seen the video of Sterling’s son sobbing and did not feel that what happened was wrong then something is very wrong with you.
Look at the numbers of the percentage of unarmed black people being killed in the US: http://mappingpoliceviolence.org/unarmed/. If you can look at these numbers and still tell me that this is not a problem then you don’t need to read any further, because nothing I write will make a difference to you.
I believe there are good cops. I know some. I believe there are cops who aren’t going to walk up to a man like Alton Sterling or a man like Philando Castile and shoot them. I believe the cops who did used their prejudices to harm people who they shouldn’t have. They let their racist views affect their judgment and that’s not okay. Those cops were ill prepared for the job that they signed up for.
I also believe it’s time to change the mentality in the US that violence is okay. In the wake of the deaths of Sterling and Castile, more violence came in the shooting of innocent cops at what was supposed to be a peaceful protest for #BlackLivesMatter in Dallas. This is not okay! Seeing this violence over social media has desensitized us to what actually is happening. These are not movies. Real, innocent people are losing their lives: POC and cops. Real children, wives, girlfriends, husbands, mothers and fathers are mourning their fathers, husbands, sons, wives, daughters TODAY.
I have to ask you this question. Do you want your child growing up in a world where they see hate and violence every day? My children have good friends of color, and I feel for them and their parents. They live in fear that something will happen to them, their sons, their cousins, their brothers. As a white person, I speak from privilege and a place of not having to fear that for my sons. My boys won’t be looked at with a wary eye if they’re wearing a hoodie and walking down the road at night, but my friend’s son might, just because of the color of his skin.
I have friends who are cops, and I live in fear for them that now that these incidents have happened vigilantes will take it into their own hands to prove a point by killing more innocent people. It has got to stop. Gun violence doesn’t help. Hate doesn’t help. Protecting our brothers and sisters does. We can make a change when we start standing up for POC when we become vocal in saying what is happening is not okay; when we tell people we know and that we love that their racist comments are not helpful, but indeed they serve to drive a wedge between us and our brothers and sisters; when cops start turning in bad cops; when we find a way to control gun violence in this country. That change starts at home.
If you’re white, then talk to your children about the privilege they have in being white. Tell them that their friends who aren’t white don’t have that same privilege. Let them know that racism does still exist and that they will be taxed with fighting against it in the future. Tell them to stand up for their friends who are POC. Tell them not to accept overt or covert racism from people they know. Tell them that the solution to violence is never more violence. Ask the US to seek gun control. Provide mental health services for cops who have seen violence and tragedy in the field. I’m sure there’s a system in which cops can report other cops who they deem are misusing their power. Use those systems so that all Americans can feel safe when they’re pulled over for something as minor as a broken taillight. I don’t want to see anymore POC killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time at the wrong side of a barrel. I don’t want to see any more cops senselessly killed for trying to do their duty and protect people. Let’s change America and bring back a sense of pride in the fact that we are different but that we are all US citizens who seek freedom and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Let’s show our children that we can live peacefully together, love one another and they don’t need to fear someone just because their skin is a different color.
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