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.