The events of the past three days have been a vortex of emotion for me. Shock, sadness, anger, rage, hope, frustration, and brokenheartedness.
I want to start by saying: I love you my friends. You wouldn’t be my friends if I didn’t.
I have a lot of white friends. That’s probably obvious considering, well, I’m white. And so is the majority of this country, and specifically my local community.
I have non-white friends too. Black, Asian, Native American, Middle Eastern. I haven’t counted them. I guess I could try, but since I only have ten fingers I’d probably get myself confused.
If I said I have a racially diverse group of friends by accident, I’d be disingenuous. It’s totally on purpose.
I crave racial and cultural diversity in my life. I thrive on meeting people and hearing their stories, their life experiences that are different from mine. I love learning from them because I know my lens is filtered and my view of the world myopic. That’s just a fact of life; you can only truly know the world through your eyes, until you make purposeful attempts to see it from the eyes of others.
Jesus mandated me to love others. I can’t love people well if i don’t know or attempt to understand them. If I don’t listen to them.
In listening, I have heard some things from my friends. Those things have broken my heart. Those things have enlarged my lens and given me the chance to see things I never would have otherwise.
When I see my white friends go silent in the face of another extrajudicial killing of a black man, it hurts my heart. When they remain silent as a second man bleeds on live streaming for the world to see, it angers me. When they post “All lives matter” it grieves me because in my heart I know that means that they have never sat down and talked with a black friend and tried to understand.
When the same friends that I love and respect who, remaining silent for 24 hours as i wailed in my bedroom over a 4 year old girl’s voice saying “I’m here for you mommy” following her witnessing a man who was sworn to serve and protect her shooting her mother’s boyfriend in front of her eyes, inches from her precious tiny body, immediately respond with support following the shooting of Dallas police officers, I start to wonder what kind of friends I have.
I’m sorry, but it’s true.
I, too, am grieving the shooting of the Dallas police and transit officers last night. You can ask my children, who witnessed me cry out like a wounded animal from the pain in my soul when I got the news alert on my phone.
And then I cried because I knew that whatever empathy that began rising in the wake of the death of Philando Castile was immediately dashed with the deaths of those officers. And back in the justification crept.
Where were you when an innocent man, cooperating with the officer on a minor traffic stop was gunned down in cold blood? Where was your support for HIS life, if you say “all lives matter?” IF all lives matter to you, why weren’t you grieving with the black community over THAT man who didn’t go home to his family that night?
Every time you post the words “All lives matter” you marginalize their pain. You dismiss their agony. You render their struggle meaningless.
And it shouldn’t be “their” struggle. It should be OUR struggle. OUR struggle for justice. OUR struggle for racial parity in police encounters. OUR struggle for what is RIGHT.
I don’t hate police officers. I don’t hate anyone. I want police department leadership to clean up the environment that has bred a disparity of treatment and attitude from the moment a person of color drives or walks past an officer.
The statistics are there. A person of color, typically black or Hispanic, is significantly more likely to be stopped, more likely to be searched, more likely to be arrested, more likely to be convicted, and sentenced to longer, more severe terms than their white counterparts. It’s not made up. It’s real and verifiable. I discussed this back when the Zimmerman verdict came down in my blog Devastated but not surprised .
And then you have the reality that officers are almost never held accountable.
My father-in-law was a police officer. My mother-in-law. Two of my husband’s uncles. One remains an officer. I love them. I respect them. I know their hearts. I have friends in law enforcement. I have friends whose spouses are in law enforcement. I can’t imagine how difficult it is every time they head out the door to work. Their job is important. And dangerous.
I also know that my father-in-law struggled with his own racial bias. I heard him say, “When the majority of the black people you see are committing crimes, it changes the way you see people.” THAT’S honesty. That’s the kind of thing that officers say in private but would never admit publicly. That’s a problem in need of being addressed.
When white officers who don’t live in a community made up primarily of minorities come in, men and women who aren’t connected to or in relationship with the people, the setup is adversarial. Guilt is assumed. Distrust by members of the community aggravates encounters. It feels less like civil servants there to protect and serve and more like prison guards keeping prisoners in check.
And then you have less diverse communities being policed by even less diverse police departments, who see a black person come into town and they immediately go on high alert.
I learned about this the first time when my college boyfriend was pulled over in my hometown because his “tinted windows made it hard to see the temporary license plate.”
I was reminded again just last month as my friend and neighbor told me that she was followed by an officer for several minutes as she drove through our community, before finally being pulled over. The officer’s explanation? “You have Texas plates. We are a small community. I need to make sure everyone who is here belongs here.”
When incidents occur that are clearly wrong on the part of the officer, the fraternity closes ranks and you hear not a peep of criticism from them or their supporters. That would be disloyal, right? It’s a family. Family doesn’t talk about its dirty laundry to outsiders (unless you’re a Kardashian) .
How can you address a problem that no one in the fraternity of police wants to admit?
How is the black community supposed to feel when their family members are bleeding in the streets over a broken taillight, but a white racist mass-murderer was taken to burger king on his way to jail?
I get why there is a brotherhood among officers. You have to implicitly trust your partner and your fellow officers as you go into dangerous situations. You need to know they will have your back.
However, that shouldn’t extend to remaining silent when it comes to racism, corruption, or killing people instead of arresting them.
“Not all cops are racist.” OF COURSE THEY AREN’T. But I have watched enough cop shows to know that knowledge of a crime without reporting it makes you an accessory. Silence makes you complicit.
Good cops need to stand up for the black community. White people need to stand up for the black community.
My friends are crying out in pain over the loss of life, but also fear for their sons, their husbands, their fathers.
When will their anguish register enough with you, my white friends, to stand up and take notice? When will their fears be assuaged by you with promises to do better, to be better, to love and protect their families?
Or will their cries continue to be dismissed by you with the tap of the hashtag key?