What do I tell my children, what do I tell my students, and what would I tell children of color across our country? I don’t know the answer.
Like much of America, I was horrified by the two most recent tragic deaths of black men at the hands of the police. My son was devastated and hopeless after seeing the video almost as it was happening. As I tried to console him, I realized that I really didn’t know what we could do. He is a college student and older family members continually insist that if he is upset about what is happening in the world HE needs to work towards change. Really? He is 20, doesn’t have a car, or money, or power…
He asked me what I was doing to make the world better… ‘I teach’, I told him. ‘I teach love, kindness, understanding, respect, and listening’. It seems like the lessons I teach to first graders have been lost on many in our nation.
We, white Americans, look at those videos and wonder what happened that we couldn’t see or hear, that made the officer kill the victim. Other black Americans share their stories of how they acted ‘properly’ when stopped by police and came out of the situation unharmed. Facebook is filled with memes stating ‘I stand with the police’. None of these approaches will solve this epidemic of police shootings, gun violence, terror on our communities of color, or the tragedy that just happened last night in Dallas. They perpetuate the problem. They do not validate the reality in our country. We need to support all… Police, military, fellow citizens of America and the world…
We have a systemic disease that started over a hundred years ago and our black brothers and sisters suffer from it every day. People are angry and hurt. I am thankful for the people who go into law enforcement. Much like myself, they have dedicated their lives to making our country a better place and helping to keep us safe. Are there incompetent teachers? Yes, they get put on a plan of assisted and if they don’t improve they lose their jobs. Are there incompetent police officers? Yes. But the results of their incompetence can be far more tragic. Wrong is wrong and unless we are willing to see that, the suffering will continue.
The police officers in Dallas were there to protect a peaceful protest. They had guns and still they were victims. Perhaps those of us who care about protecting our Second Amendment rights will finally see that we have a gun issue and begin to be willing to make concessions to that right. You do not need a gun… You need to lead with love and kindness… Change will come when we fight for understanding and that fight can not be with guns…
Police training and accountability often comes into question during times like this. Use of force training by police in Scotland is very different from how American police are trained. We need to stop saying America is wonderful and amazing and the best in the world. We are not that great… We have problems, big ones! We are terrorizing each other, black Americans are oppressed and live in fear, police are targeted and disrespected, gun violence is prevalent, hate crimes and anti-semitism continue, young people are murdered, we have a presidential candidate who spouts hatred, bigotry and stupidity and much of America hangs on his every word. -and that is the short list.
I have read several pieces telling me that I am not doing enough, that I can not understand the problem, that I am part of the problem…because I am white. I can not change the color of my skin anymore than anyone can change theirs. I have been told that it is not my place to speak out because then I am contributing to the ‘white knight’ syndrome and I don’t really understand the problem. I do not accept that. I MUST join this fight… a fight for understanding and change
I told my son that I would do my best to make things better. I will show kindness and love, I will forgive quickly, I will smile easily, I will be grateful for what I have, I will show respect and humanity to others, and I will speak out in words and with my vote.
What will you do?