Ok. Here it goes.
Our country is in disarray right now, but you already know that.
The war we’re waging requires everyone to pick a side, and I encourage you to do so. However, before you do, at least be aware of what the sides are.
At its core, the killing, rioting, and mudslinging isn’t really about black vs. white; the recent murder of two Hattiesburg cops proved that. Pieces of the puzzle make it look that way, but that’s not what’s at the core. Racism is a real, living thing, as real as a consistent, sharp pain or lingering fever. But like a fever, it’s a symptom of a bigger infection.
It’s not about cops vs. civilians, because we all know good cops; one of the most respected men I ever knew, Paul Acker, was a cop, and a great one, at that.
It’s about what every single wrongdoing since the beginning of time has been about: good vs. evil.
In every city, there are good cops, and there are bad cops.
There are good black people, and there are bad black people.
There are good white people, Mexicans, Asians, and Indians, and bad ones.
As humans, we tend to side with the people we relate to most, whether that relation is through skin tone, profession, common interest, or some other factor. If we relate to a myriad of people, when we feel forced to choose whose side to take in a debacle, we tend to side with the ones who reflect how we most identify ourselves, or the part of our identity which we hold most valuable.
If your melanin represents your deepest self, you’ll side with people of the same skin tone as you.
If your job represents your deepest self, you’ll side with those of the same profession.
If your love for people represents your deepest self, you’ll side with love (which, by the way, is the answer to all of this).
But if we get to know the person, the individual, stereotypes aimed towards specific groups lose their power, and we stand for the good of the person, not for the perceived good of a group of people, or against the perceived bad of a group of people.
Cleaning up this mess isn’t complicated. There are a lot of “solutions” being offered that we don’t need. All we need is to get past ourselves and get to know people who are different from us on a real level instead of believing everything we’ve been taught about “them.”
The friend I’ve had longer than any other in my life is white. We’ve been riding with each other for 26 years. And let me tell you something; if anybody–ANYBODY–or anything causes her pain, I will be there to listen, to offer a shoulder, to fight, or whatever else needs to happen. And if the situation dictates, I will tell the people close to me to take up a collection and where to pick me up, because she matters to me, and what’s important to her is important to me, and I adore her, and I don’t want to see her hurting.
That’s love, and it transcends every difference between us; our ethnicities, our upbringing, our religions. Honestly, other than being raised in the South and loving sports, Shannon and I don’t have a laundry list of similarities. But I love her, and I’m passing this kind of love for people down to my daughters (read more of my thoughts on that, here).
Sounds simple enough, right? Unfortunately, too many biases blind us and muddle our view of who’s right and who’s not. We start ignoring people, disregarding their truth as fabrications, or privilege, or as meaningless anecdotes that lack all the facts. Watching the hate unfold has been disheartening. The way I view several people has changed, because love and friendship dictate that what’s important to one party becomes important to both parties, but that’s not what’s happening, here.
I could list the incidences of harassment that my friends, family, and myself have experienced at the hands of cops, but if you were not willing to listen, it would be a waste.
I find it interesting, however, that when I share about the time I channeled Whitney Houston through my most captivating vocals and dance moves while driving down a back road in Hattiesburg, MS, and made eye contact with a motorcycle cop, and we shared a smile, nodding our heads in agreement that my skills were beyond awesome, not once has anyone ever doubted that story. Herein lies the problem.
If you’ve already decided whom and what you’ll believe, if by default, certain people are automatically right or wrong, then there’s no conversation to be had, and subsequently, no changes to be made. The bloody cycle of hatred continues (and I mean that literally, not in a British way).
However, if we swallow our pride, close our mouth, open our ears, and listen, incredible things could happen. We might learn that our experiences aren’t the only ones that count, that others’ experiences are valid, even valuable. We’d exercise empathy instead of blame. Maybe we’d even begin to see people who are different from us as worthy of justice and respect, as just as human as ourselves. Maybe.
I’m not naïve. My thoughts here probably won’t do a whole lot to put a dent in the immense frustration and confusion in the air of our nation right now, especially since it will likely be lost in the sea of blog posts about this same topic. But I do know that the people I care about deserve for me to acknowledge the things that are important to them, and if you care about people, that same principle applies. Step one of a real solution would be to intentionally approach somebody on the opposite side of the spectrum and ask, with a genuine heart and open mind, “Hey, what’s your view of all this? Would you mind sharing your experiences with me?” Then, listen. People deserve to at least be heard; it makes them feel significant.
Let’s do this. How about all the people who believe in what’s good and right band together to fight for justice, no matter what the other factors look like? Do you think it would make a difference? Do you even think it’s possible? I’d like to hear your thoughts. However, before you post a comment, please,
1. Make sure your reading comprehension is on point, and
2. Be respectful.