Saturday, June 13, 2020

Black Lives Matter

I could look up a bunch of talking points and recombine them here to make myself seem informed. When it comes to the topic of systemic racism, I want to figure out what I really believe. Echoing more eloquent words of like-minded people isn't a bad thing, I just think it's important to say something out loud and straight out of my head. 

I had an IM chat with someone on the topic of white guilt and what it takes to be an ally. I told him that I watched the local protests late into the night on TV. I didn't get off the couch. I didn't drive downtown and find a place to park. I didn't get out of my car and walk toward the noise on the street. And when the protests came to my Main street, I drove by and waved. I didn't pull over and stand with them. I didn't even honk my horn. 

This is the behavior that makes it difficult to change things. My horror and outrage at watching George Floyd's murder are meaningless unless I do something beyond pontificate to my family at the dinner table.

I have sought out many clips of police violence against protesters. The amount of cellphone video evidence of police violating individuals' rights in and outside of the protests is staggering. And yet, I still have difficulty reconciling the fact that I expect the police to protect me. And when I've had to deal with law enforcement, I've always been helped or at least been treated fairly. 

The fact that a white male just typed those words is not lost on me. 

The fact that I've never been worried about being pulled over for driving black is not lost on me. 

I was going to write that the police are just a symptom of the broader issues that contribute to racism. That's bullshit. And as much as I know we demand that police serve us in ways that they shouldn't have to, they are the ones shooting rubber bullets, yanking innocent people out of their cars, shoving old people and placing their knees on black mens' necks. 

I have no friends or family who behave like racists. I can't think of anyone in my circle who would treat anyone differently, let alone negatively, because of the color of his or her skin. However, if you are reading this and you want to respond to protests by saying something like, "all lives matter" then you, at the very least, have some reading and listening to do. If you are attributing looting and destruction solely to the protests and equating those acts with the message driving the protests then you are mistaken. And if you are someone, like me, who has always felt the need to back the badge, right or wrong then it's time to revaluate what that means and how that attitude is actually killing people. 

If I didn't write this, I am part of the problem. And after writing this, I am still part of the problem. Nevertheless, here's what I know: I know that racism is taught. I know that racism is systemic and that social and economic barriers are real. I know that the paradigm for policing in this country is deeply flawed. 

Of course, I don't have answers for any of these issues. But, these are the things I wanted to say, out loud and straight out of my head because, not saying anything at all is wrong. 

No comments: