[Edit: I’m sure this is rough. I didn’t proofread it before publishing. It’s not supposed to be for anybody else’s consumption anyway. Perhaps I’ll go back and fix it, but if this note is still here, that hasn’t happened yet. For now it’s just a first draft, and a hope at some relief that never seems to come.]
The last week has been full of sadness. We’ve had stories of people dying at the hands of what seem to be poorly trained police officers (although I’m the first to admit that I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a cop), and just last night, at an overwhelmingly peaceful protest about those deaths, madmen struck and shot and killed police officers. Officers who were not involved in any of these horrible stories (and even if they were, it wouldn’t justify killing them), officers who were clearly part of the community, and who were there to help the protesters exercise their first amendment right to assemble. There seemed to be no animosity between the protesters and the police. I’m not sure why that matters to me, but I think it makes it especially sad that the shooting happened there, in a place, Dallas, that has a reputation for making it work, and making it work well.
I try to keep emotion out of this blog, in fact, that’s kind of the rule here, but I’m not sure I can keep it out of this one, and it’s my blog…really my diary, so I can break the rules when I want.
I’m sick over all of this. I’m sickened by the video of that poor man bleeding to death, while a child sits in the back seat of the car, and his girlfriend watches. I’m amazed by her composure, her ability to remain calm, while he dies next to her, and a police officer screams at her from outside of the car. There is a video floating around of comedian Jim Jeffries. His routine is mostly about Donald Trump, and I find it quite enjoyable. The end though, that’s where something hits home. He points out that you might not gain anything directly by being the “good guy.” It might not make the other guy change his behavior, or do the right thing, but, and this is important, others see you. And over time, they start to see who the good guy is and who the bad guy is.
When I watch the awful videos, the videos of unarmed, or seemingly non-agressive men being shot by police, under circumstances when it seems completely and totally unnecessary to use lethal force (e.g., when they are pinned down and can’t move, or when they are reaching for the ID they were told to produce), it makes the officers look like the bad guys. That’s a pretty horrible feeling for me. To me, as an adult at least, the police are the good guys. As an adolescent, they were the ones breaking up the parties, so I didn’t like them very much, but I’ve grown up since then. Now they’re the parents of the kids on my kid’s baseball team. They’re the ones who showed up first when my daughter fainted and we called 9-1-1. They’re the ones who gave us a ride home after we were rear-ended and my car had to be towed away. They’re the ones who make my community an incredibly safe place to live. They are undoubtedly the good guys in my mind. I think that’s why it’s even more upsetting when I see these videos. The police are supposed to be the good guys. They’re the ones who are supposed to be calm and helping the person bleeding to death, while the untrained bystander screams and cries in the background. There’s this horrible role reversal. Somebody being killed is awful enough, but add the role reversal to it and it makes it so much worse.
What makes me more upset about this is how people mistake attempts to improve the situation with attempts to divide us. That is sickening. There are some who use these events to divide us. A former congressman, for example, took to twitter after the shootings in Dallas and said “This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you.” Others immediately posted awful memes accusing Obama of causing the shooting because he gave a speech acknowledging that there is a problem when these events (the killing of people by police) keep happening. These are disgusting to me. But these are the obviously bad examples. These people, I hope, do not speak for the vast majority, and I hope that most people see their rhetoric as hateful and of no use whatsoever. The ones that make me sad, because they have a broader impact, are those who blame people like the leaders of Black Lives Matter and Obama and any of our civil rights leaders of today for the division. Newt Gingrich was on FoxNews this morning talking about the shootings in Dallas and almost immediately pivoted to Obama…perhaps because the hosts asked him to. He immediately pointed the finger at Obama for dividing us, and that’s a common theme amongst many conservatives. It’s Obama’s fault that we’re divided. It’s Black Lives Matter’s fault that we’re divided. First of all, I don’t think Obama has much to do with this, and I honestly wish he would be more forceful on these issues, but I think it’s important for him to not be a “black president,” and instead be a “president.” I can appreciate that being a hard line to walk. But when people blame the Black Lives Matter movement for causing division, it makes me want to fucking scream. It’s like blaming Martin Luther King Jr for the mistreatment of black Americans before the civil rights movement. Blacks are mistreated in America, and calling attention to that is important. We can’t fix a problem if we don’t know that it exists (I’m not sure that knowing it exists is close to enough, but it’s at least a step). It’s the reaction to that information that’s telling to me, and I think says a lot about a person.
Let’s take race out of this and imagine the following scenario and what it says about the people involved. Let’s play chose your own adventure. Here goes:
Jim: I was at the bar on the corner a few weeks ago and I saw this kid getting beat up by four guys. It was awful. Then I went again last week and the same four guys were beating up another kid. Then I was there yesterday and a different four guys were beating up the kid who was getting pounded the first time. Crazy.
[Time to chose the best response]
Joe (option A): That’s awful. We should do something to stop the fighting in that place.
Joe (option B): I don’t believe you. I’ve been there before and I’ve never seen anybody fight.
Joe (option C): Those people are animals. As long as they keep killing themselves, I don’t care.
Joe (option D): That kid deserved it.
Options B, C, and D just don’t make any sense to me, but those are the reactions that we seem to get from people when they’re told that there are problems with the way that black people are treated in America.
Option B: They’re treated fine. More white people were killed by cops than black people. I saw that on the news. Bill O’Reilly said that in 2012, 123 black people were killed by police and 326 white people were killed by police. More whites are killed by cops, but you don’t hear us saying there’s a problem with cops killing white people. This isn’t a black-white problem, you’re just making that up.
Well, the the numbers are true, but given that whites outnumber blacks about 5 to 1 in the United States, the numbers shown clearly show a disproportionate rate of death. And, let me ask this, why would I make it up? What do I have to gain by calling attention to the plight of minority Americans. You might argue that it’s because politicians are pandering to them to get their votes, but the only reason it works is because the alternative is the guy saying that there’s no problem here, and that blacks should just sit down and shut up.
Option C: Look at the way we talk about minorities. Articles about the Stanford rapist discuss his swim times, but the first thing we do when a black male is involved is talk about the criminal history (either that there was one or wasn’t). There is a lot of anecdotal evidence (the worst kind, but all I have right now) that a black man with a gun will be shot, but a white man with a gun will be given many opportunities to stand down. For some people, as long as the crimes are in the inner cities, none of it matters.
Option D: How many people justified the killing of Michael Brown by showing a video of somebody (who they said was Brown, but actually wasn’t) beating up an old man? A common reaction to that killing was to point out that he was a thug who got what he deserved.
Regardless of the flavor, why isn’t the response: Oh my god, somebody is being hurt! Let’s stop that from happening!
From where I sit, it just seems like a lack of caring for other people. It’s about me and mine, and everybody else is on their own. I don’t have to worry about that happening to me, so don’t make me lift a finger. It’s so incredibly painful to watch.
My heart is broken today.