Pamela Llano Zesty Mom
Another unarmed person shot by police.
I started writing a rant about it last summer, but when I got frustrated and let it go for a few days, the news quieted down, and I suppose I just didn’t want to drag it on anymore. I was somehow hoping that it had gone away.
But it hadn’t of course, and it’s happened again.
We all know the media plays up stories, because that is after all their job, but the reality is it’s friggen crazy for the land of the free to be a place where we need to fear the people who are supposed to protect us.
My offspring and I have talked a lot about privilege, which is a completely relative concept.
Compared to much of the world, my brood and I are are privileged beyond measure. Compared to others in our affluenza infested consumerist culture... not so much..
But we are happy and free and for the most part safe. We say and do what we like, and don’t really live in fear.
The Girl and I know that we are still far, far more privileged than so many of our sisters around the globe, but we still have a ways to go. We are more likely to be harassed and make less money on average, but we can wear what we want, go where we want, use our voices without being arrested. We can make choices to change our world in ways that aren’t even an option to some women.
My Boy Child, just by virtue of being male in America and looking white, has entitlements that are hard for him to see, let alone understand. He doesn’t comprehend the seeming anger some people have towards him for being a straight, Caucasian looking guy because he personally didn’t do anything to deserve it besides being born that way.
But, even as a kid, he can see plainly, is that his light skin does offer privilege over his dark skinned friends. And we all know that is messed up.
Last weekend, as we listened to a police officer talking to teens about driving and safety, someone asked how to respond if they ever pulled over. The officer offered tips on staying out of trouble with what you say, and said that smart mouthed friends in the back seat could get you a ticket. He talked about keeping your hands on the wheel where they could see them, and not rooting around for things until there was a mutual understanding that you were going to. He said not seeing hands made them nervous but no one mentioned the connection between making someone nervous and getting shot.
I looked at my white kid, hoping he was listening and knowing we’d talk about it later. He has uncles whose mouths have gotten them into trouble, so we know that skin shade alone doesn’t provide immunity.
But there were 2 other boys there that I didn’t know, and wouldn’t get to talk to later, and they were ones I was really concerned for. I wanted to grab them by the shoulders and say “You hear him, right? Please listen!”
One boy was tall and black. The other was Mexican. They were the ones I actually felt scared for.
And I wonder if they are the ones the cops are most afraid of?
There is another young man that is dear to our pack~ he is big, black, kind, hard working and a good soul. When he lived in our mostly white town, we knew that if he and my light skinned boy got into the exact same teenaged mischief, there would likely be different outcomes.
I personally am equal opportunity in my flipping out about dumbarsery, and dole out similar raving rants on my kids and / or any of their friends when they’ve done ridiculous things in the past.
But, I actually know these kids I am not the police. I don’t deal with horrible atrocities on a daily basis and I am not hated by a large sector of society. My job has very little risk of being yelled at, attacked or having to manhandle a criminal, and frankly, I know I'd not be a good candidate for any of that.
But back to our friend~ Once, years ago, he was walking home in his own neighborhood, which was pretty much downtown “hood”. Some officers pulled over to talk to him about some graffiti they had spotted nearby to see if he knew anything about it, had any incriminating evidence about him etc.
The graffiti in question read “____CWB”
This happens to stand for ____ County White Boys” (I left the blank in intentionally to avoid referencing the locale of the racist little wanna be gang bangers)
Anyhoo, no, our young black friend was not running around town promoting the local whites only gang!
Sheesh. The officers, however, didn’t seem to even know what the graffiti referenced. They just saw a black and teenaged male, and there you go.
Perhaps they weren't profiling and would have questioned any teens in that neighborhood... I don’t really know) but they thankfully were not friggen nuts.
Thankfully also, our young friend is not a confrontational person, so he didn’t argue or act aggressive and make things worse. He is smart enough to know that cooperating reduces your odds of being beaten or shot. He was interrogated a bit, and went on his way.
But what about the people who didn’t get to go on their way because they were freaking killed?
I have experienced super stressed out officers myself~ the kind that seemed like they would throw me on the ground and kick me if I didn’t jump to comply with their commands. But I never really felt like they would shoot me. Maybe rub my face on the ground in a display of masculine dominance. Perhaps even taser me. But the thought that they might actually kill me never even crossed my mind.
Of course, arguing with them as if I was going to win didn’t really cross my mind either. I've tried to make sure the offspring realize that there is a time and place for most things and that some things aren't worth arguing about. Arguing and refusing to cooperate shouldn't be punishable by death, but the reality is that it happens~ a lot.
I know being a cop has got to be one of the most intense, stressful and thankless jobs there is, and I commend those who do it in the spirit of service. But there is something wrong when they are so stressed and fearful to the point of shooting and killing unarmed people on what seems like a fairly regular basis.
So people live in fear of the people who are paid to be there to protect and help us.
There's no right way to explain that our black friend would almost surely pay harsher consequences than my white skinned son for any small offense, that people are more afraid of him and more ready to blame him based on his size and color.
I’ve decided not to watch the videos of people being shot by police because I don’t think seeing people get murdered is going to do anything about the way I feel. I don’t need to witness shooting and murder to think there could and should be a better way. I already know that and I’m pretty sure so does everyone else if you’d stop and think about it.
It might not fix everything, but I would think that more training for cops would be the first step. Knowing that they are going to be in intense situations, it seems like they should have a whole lotta de-escalation techniques before they get their gun, and ongoing refreshers afterward so that maybe they’d be less likely to flip their lids and kill people. Disabling should be the primary tactic~ not death. I'm pretty sure we have the technology and tools to avoid this?
The people in authority are hired to keep our society safe~ all of it~ including the dark skinned male part. It is a tough and terrifying job, but frightening and killing the people you are hired to protect is never excusable and it needs to stop.
Again, I don’t know the answer, but I do know that as a society, we can’t just shake our heads and move on.
We can’t just shift of attention to reframing stories of someone who “deserved” to get shot because really, not cooperating should not punishable by death. Why not pepper spray or an old fashioned wrestling into handcuffs like they did on the 70’s cop shows?
Arguing that all lives matter or whether or not racism is a systemic issue isn’t going to help either because it only detracts from the real issue, which is that our police force is so stressed out and not adequately prepared to deal with it and the result is unarmed people being killed.
Calling out injustice doesn’t equate to seeking revenge and perpetrating more violence. It doesn’t mean hating all cops or all people in a movement either because that kind of prejudice is just stupid.
But it can't possibly be a surprise that people are angry. I don't think violence is the answer, but when people are surprised by riots, I just think~ the founders of my country resorted to some serious property damage dumping tea in a harbor, and we all celebrate that. Even Jesus flipped over tables to get his point across on occasion.
When people get pushed too far, they lose their shizzle sticks. But we can't just accept a culture where cops and citizens alike are walking around so fearful an angry or there will just be more things to grieve in the near future. Somehow, we have to figure out a way on a bigger scale to calm the heck down.
I read somewhere once that “There’s no such thing as other people’s children.” Every black person is someone’s kid, and so is every cop. They might also be a sibling, partner, friend, and parent. They all belong to someone..
And I suppose that's the point that I want my kids to get. That, and that maybe if we could all stop being such arse holes to each other, the world would be a better place.
Lazy. Entitled. Whiners.
These are a few words I’ve heard referring to the current generation of young people, and it’s a pretty dismal outlook on the future.
The theme of cry baby youth is all over social media, it’s in 12 million memes and it’s a conversation I’ve heard in real life over and over.
There’s always an overtone that kids these days will not only never survive~ with their need for participation trophies and safe spaces~ but also that their parents and society will have to support their helpless butts forever.
I’m old enough to see that there are plenty of cases where yes...this is true. Yes, there some lazy young people who whine and are fairly incompetent.
BUT, I’m also young enough to remember “old people” (who were probably around 40) blasting my fellow Gen X-ers and I for being slackers, negative and unmotivated, and blah, blah, blah. (I’m sure they droned on with more ways of how we didn’t measure up, but I, and probably most of my peers, tuned it out.)
Decades before that, my hard working Grandparents were most likely also horrified by my parents hippie culture (which later turned into a yuppie culture that created plenty of problems in itself and mortified me) but I don’t know how many of those former hippie / yuppies remember being on the other end of that parental judgment.
The the thing is, it’s easy to blame the youth, but doesn’t everyone know people of ALL AGES who make excuses and have a victim mentality? Even if we grew up before “You Are Special” ribbons became a thing, there are still people who want someone else to fix their problems and don’t take responsibility for their own life choices.
When I stop and look at the young people that are actually around me in real life, and not on the internet~ the kids I see these days are actually pretty awesome.
I spent a recent weekend taking a dozen of them up to a small mountain town that had been devastated when a fast spreading wildfire destroyed 150 homes two years ago.
The burned houses weren’t second vacation homes, but primary residents, many were low income and uninsured people and most of them lost everything~ from irreplaceable baby pictures and pain in the rear important documents to every last pair of underwear and socks. Many also lost their pets.
It was definitely a disaster, but the area didn’t qualify for FEMA funds. Apparently, that turned out to be a good thing because it allowed volunteers to help, and things are actually getting done. Between Habitat for Humanity and other private and religious groups, new homes were being built.
Anyhoo, back to the kids….about half of the 12 kids we took were familiar to us, and we have taken them on trips to work and play for years. The other half were new to the group~ unknowns, and several were pretty young~ like barely in junior high. In hindsight, this could have been a disaster in and of itself, but as it turned out, they were all great.
We spent a long day working on building two different homes. My group of kids marked and loaded sheet after sheet of roofing plywood and painted almost an entire house. Every one of them worked hard, and complaining was little to none. They were tired and slightly sunburned, and at some points, I would assume a bit bored, but there was no complaining or whining. They just helped.
We met the future owner, whose son and husband helped throughout the day, while she brought us homemade food. Her gratitude was huge and she talked to me about immigrating to America, about the hardships of separating from family, being lost in a foreign culture, and of how lucky they were to get their passports and legal papers out in time.
All I could think of was how hard it would be for me to rebuild in an event like that~ and I have family, friends, community, a shared first language and citizenship that would all be on my side. This lady had a serious battle.
The kids didn’t know any of that when they were working. They just did what they saw needed to be done.
In talking to some of the parents later, I realized that most of the young people probably worked much harder that day than they typically do at home, but the same could be said for me. I’m much more cheerful when picking up groceries or making a meal for a sick friend or new mama than I am when doing these chores for myself. I guess people just like to help.
We all need purpose and perhaps that's what the trouble is with all of the generations of youth since laws and culture changed the helpful and important contributions teens made to society and left them them to just be economic liabilities and consumers. When people have good things to do, they generally do them.
The same group of kids helped again a week later when we made up hygiene bags for displaced people and filled backpacks for kids who wouldn’t otherwise have back to school supplies.
But these aren’t the only awesome kids I see. My Oldest Girl Child is off on her adventure with Global Citizen Year~ spending a year immersed in a cultural exchange internship in Ecuador. One of her best friends is working with the same program in Senegal. At just 18, these kids are out ~ not just exploring, although that’s a huge part of it~ they are actually doing things in the world and trying to make it a better place.
Closer to home, I see other kids who might look like they are just goofing off and making videos with their friends, but really they’re learning about technology and communication, and perhaps most important, they’re making people laugh. Some are learning coding and 3D printing dustable things, some are making music or dancing or playing sports, some are making awesome baked goods or painting or making fantastic costumes, and some are playing with little kids and being cool older role models.
Looking around, I don’t feel all that concerned at all.
All of these young people give me hope and make me smile. From what I’m seeing around me the kids these days are going to be just fine.
And the world will be a better place because they’re in it.
While yesterday marked the 15th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks in the US, and I did see some commemorative Facebook reminders and one display of patriotic women dressed in red, white and blue waving American flags on horseback that took me a day to connect, my day was full of other busy-ness that I was caught up in, so it wasn’t until this morning that I really stopped to think about it.
A friend who is a few years younger than me had mentioned that she would always remember where she was that day, and I thought how old we sounded because that’s one of those kinds of things old people say….”I remember the day….”
But I do too. I recall exactly where I was~
In bed in my little off the grid cabin in the mountains with a baby and a toddler curled up beside me. My mom called in hysterics telling me to turn on my generator and see what was happening on TV and something about people blowing up planes and buildings. I could tell it was urgent to her, so even though I was a little annoyed to leave my cozy nest and go outside because I didn’t know what it had to do with me, or what I was suppose to do about it, I dutifully got out of bed, went downstairs and out of the house, yanked a chain until my arm hurt and a motor fired up and I had electricity in my house to connect to the world and see what was so important.
I turned my little 13” TV on and the first thing I saw was a plane crashing into a building. While I’m standing there confused and wide eyed, my barely 3 year old daughter, who apparently saw it too asked “Mama... are there children in that building?”
Today, I came across a post from a schoolteacher who talked about teaching his high school students about 9/11~ what led up to it, the politics going back to Jimmy Carter and why the hatred. But the thing that struck me most was what he said about the people jumping from the towers.
Like 200 of them.
I guess maybe I knew one or two had, but I had no idea the number was that high. I was also surprised by how long it all took between the crash and the fires and the collapsing~ my view from my tiny TV made it all happen so fast, and I hurried to stop my little ones from seeing or hearing anymore about it, but for the people there living it, the fires were burning for over an hour and a half with people trapped inside.
So today I’m pondering while my teenagers sleep in just how I want to talk with them about this part of it.
In years past, I’ve shared stories of helpers, like the ferry boat captains who helped people out by water, and the dogs who rescued people~ stories of hope.
We have a young friend who has a September 11th birthday and another friend whose wedding anniversary shares the day. We usually think about them and the good things that happened in the world on that day.
But today I feel like I need to say something about the people who were trapped inside those towers for so long~ to remember that it wasn’t crash, boom and over for them~ they were crowded in extreme heat and flames and smoke so they couldn’t see or breathe~ it was so horribly long and had to be terrifying~ enough so that some people had to jump, if nothing else so they could breathe one more time in the ten seconds while they flew a hundred stories to the ground before it ended in an instant.
It’s gruesome and awful, but that’s the story I feel like I need to share with these kids today.
I don’t know how or what I’ll say, because how do you talk about something that awful?
In some ways it’s always like that with hard topics. When they were little, I shielded them from violence and towards solutions, but now they are too big to shield. They have access to media I don’t always like, some of it is with senseless made up violence, and that makes seeing and hearing about the realities of violence feel even more important to me.
They still need solutions, but sadly I don't have them. I'll just do my best to share what feels important and hope I don't scar them. Those people and their story deserve to be remembered...
If anyone has words of wisdom, please share. Otherwise, at least wish me luck.
Who is Zesty Mom?
I'm an Artist, Writer, Funschooling Facilitator, Empowered Living Advocate, Wanna-be Organic Gardening Foodie, Travel Loving Life Explorer, Former Goat Herding Chicken Lady, and Full Time Mamacita Extraordinaire to a Couple of Cage Free Kids.
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