Monday was the 4th of July. Tuesday, a black man in Louisiana, named Alton Sterling, was killed at point blank range outside of a convenience store in Baton Rough by two police officers. The shooting was captured on cell phone video. It was horrible to watch, and I'm shocked that I did watch the video. My heart just ached for this man who so quickly was judged and killed.
Wednesday, another black man, Philando Castile, was also shot and killed while sitting in his car, after being pulled over for a traffic violation. I read a little bit about him. He ran (or just worked in, I cannot remember) the cafeteria's for elementary schools in Minneapolis. His girlfriend and her daughter were in the car with him, and his girlfriend filmed part of the incident on her cell phone as she watched her loved one die. This video, I couldn't watch.
I woke up this morning to the news that multiple police officers, and a few bystanders, were killed and injured in Dallas, Texas by sniper fire, apparent retaliation for the violence earlier in the week, during a peaceful protest march. There was video of this scene, too. I watched a little bit, of a sniper killing a police officer, standing just a mere foot or two behind him. To say it was unsettling, is an understatement.
What is going on?
Every day when I drop my children off at school, I tell them to be good. To be kind and nice to everyone. We've had a few discussions, nothing too serious, about race and skin color in the past, but I've never felt the need to really dig deep into it with them. I instead feel the need to focus on the importance of being good and helpful. We talk a lot about bullies, and what to do if you see another child being bullied at school. I think we need to talk more about race. And their non-white friends. And how to always be aware of situations involving those friends. And how to be brave enough to do the right thing, because the right thing is to protect someone who is being treated poorly because of their skin color.
I've been thinking about the fact, and I'm pretty sure that it's a fact, that if my husband were to get pulled over for speeding today, he wouldn't have to worry about his safety. He could probably joke with the officer and talk his way into a lesser fine. He's safe, for the most part. I cannot even imagine what a black man, or other minority male would feel in the same position. No matter how safe or comfortable you feel where you live, that fear must always be looming on the surface.
I've been thinking about a conversation I had with an angry student, in a classroom full of kids, years ago when I was teaching high school - we were talking about a current event where, the government decided to pay war reparations to the descendants of Japanese Americans who had been interred during WWII. He got mad and demanded to know why the government didn't pay reparations to the descendants of slaves. Looking back this week, my argument was so...white! I defended the US government (gross) saying that there was no way to pay back the families of slaves because they were undocumented, we don't know how many descendants there are, it would have been/would be an impossible undertaking. I said these things in a classroom where one of my favorite students, Tim, a black kid sat looking at me, probably more interested in the fact that his buddy had managed to get me all fired up, than what I was actually saying. But, I'm pretty sure I didn't say the right things.
The 1950's and 60's have been my favorite decades of history to study. I've often thought, and said out loud a few times that I was born in the wrong era. That if I had been a youth at the time of my parents, I would have been so outraged that I would have protested, been a freedom rider, stood up for those that needed some defending. I hope that my perception of myself is right. And that I still have that spark in me because it seems, that historic period of time that I longed to be a part of for a reason I cannot really understand, is staring me in the face.
People matter! Lives matter! Black lives matter! All of the men killed this week have families who love them and are mouring their tragic and violent loss. I know that my life is good. That I am relatively safe. That my children are set up to be successful in life. I know that the color of my skin gives me something, affords me opportunities, that other people don't have.
I read a quote the other day that said no matter what a person says with regards to the issue of race, someone, somewhere will call her a racist. Call me whatever you want, but the time is now to figure out how to stand up and participate. To make a difference.