Thursday – 07 July 2016
I usually denote Thursdays as being “No Bad News Thursday.” Today is not one of them. The news – and social media – are full of nothing but bad news today.
Quite frankly, it’s been wearying. A heavy, ponderous weight that even Atlas would be hard pressed to bear.
Before I go further, I want to state the following:
- This may not be pleasant for some to read. I refuse to apologize for that.
- If you have something you would care to address about something I have written, do so.
- I have friends and family members – black and white – in law enforcement and military. I respect the job that they do. It is no small undertaking to go to work and not know, with absolute certainty, that it won’t be the last time you come home. The last time you see your family. The last time you kiss your spouse. The last time you hug your kids. The last time… for everything. Yet, they suit up, walk out the door, and put their lives on the line to protect the peace and safety we hold dear. Every day.
- There are problems with our system. The words “The land of the free and the home of the brave” appear to mean different things for different people. That’s ironic and unfortunate in a country that was founded on the principle that “All men are created equal.” Yes, that was by mid-18th Century standards, but the meaning and the intent were clear… even if it took another 100+ years to (mostly) fulfill that promise/premise.
With those things stated, let’s begin.
I am a man in my mid-40s.
I am a Black man in my mid-40s.
I am a Black man in my mid-40s, with a wife and two children.
I am a Black man in my mid-40s, with a White wife and two biracial children.
I am a Black man in my mid-40s, with a White wife and two biracial children, living in America.
These are truths and the facts of my life.
I woke this morning to learn that another Black male had been killed by a member of their local police department. This occurred less than forty-eight (48) hours after another man, hundreds of miles away, suffered the same fate. There names were: Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. To borrow a line from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
“No, they’re not just names. We must remember that.”
These were men. Men with lives and families. Men who were promised, by the founding fathers of this country, the right to “…life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This is a promise that failed them. Lives and liberty cut short. The pursuit of happiness unfulfilled.
I do not live in either location where these tragedies happened and the only “eyewitnesses” I have are the video footage from bystanders of the incidents and the news media. According to what I’ve read and seen, both of these men were minding their respective business – one selling CDs outside a neighborhood store, one on his way home from the grocery store.
As I stated above, I have family and friends who wear the uniforms of peacekeepers. They chose to undertake a job that puts them at risk. The essence of their jobs can be distilled to this: They put themselves in harm’s way – on a daily basis – so that we can feel safe. So that we can be safe.
That’s not my job. Distilled to its essence, my job is to push buttons and see to it that computers work. It could also be extrapolated that my “other job,” that of parent and caregiver, is to ensure that my children have a safe and loving environment in which they can grow and flourish.
As a Black man in America, I am subject to a level of suspicion and scrutiny that my friends who are not “persons of color” are not. Yet for a difference that is, literally, skin deep, that scrutiny can often be taken to the level of “guilty until proven innocent,” a gross perversion of the law. My mother and mother-in-law had a “conversation” on social media earlier today, during which my mother expressed the following sentiment at one point:
Rob is my first born…I love him more than words can express. I continually pray for his safety/well-being.
When I read that, it nearly brought me to tears. My mother worries – genuinely worries – about me and forces beyond our control. Because, she too watches the news and sees the too-often unnecessary deaths of men my age and/or younger. Snuffed out for no apparent reason beyond the abusive use of power.
Any loss of life, especially for senseless reasons, is heinous. Just because I am Black, does that mean that my life, hopes, and dreams are worth less than someone else’s? No. But, looking at the news and social media today, I’d be hard pressed to find proof to bear that out. According to this article and this article, as of July 5th, since the beginning of 2016, at least 532 people have been killed by the police and as of this morning, 136 of those were Black. For the record, July 7th is the 188th day of the year. That means that a Black person has been killed almost daily by police since the year began. The Guardian provides an interactive database of statistics of “People killed by the police in the US” that can be found here.
Going by the Guardian’s count, 261 white people were killed by police — the highest total out of any racial group. But data also shows that black people and Native Americans are being killed at higher rates than any other group. – ThinkProgress
Let me note that I in no way mean to diminish their deaths or the deaths of anyone of any other ethnic background. I sympathize for their families and loved ones. But, theirs isn’t my paradigm.
I spent a portion of this afternoon talking with a friend who works as civilian support staff for a police department. She said that she feels like:
…I’m caught between defending the good cops and defending “offenders” to the not so good cops.
I’ve found myself realizing that we haven’t progressed as a society, and these shootings are not isolated incidents. It scares the hell out of me. And I don’t know where to start to fix/help.
What needs to happen? Change. What form should that change take? I don’t know. But, I would love to see the hatred and fear that separate us and seem to be driving us farther apart transformed into something that can strengthen and forge us into something far better than we’ve seen in far too long. And I would like to see accountability levied against those who wield their power as a divine right rather than as civil servants and defenders of the law.
Treat yourself – and others – well.
And let’s find a way to come together and show the world that we are better than this.