Good afternoon, everyone. A few bits of news:
I haven't written lately because I have been doing my best to move forward with my life, and it turns out that when you marry someone with two little kids and no immediate place to live, your forward movement looks more like the flight pattern of a bumblebee.
Secondly, examiner.com, my knitting home for five years, is shutting down this Sunday. That means when I fire up my column again, it will either be housed here, or it will find a new home all on its own. Don't give up hope.
I am writing today because I was sitting at Starbucks, knitting this great Mr. Rogers-style sweater for Erik (he must REALLY love me), and I was thinking about the events in the news the past couple of days.
First of all, we are all racist. There are degrees of racism, and while I am sure there are some on the end of the spectrum of zero racism whatsoever (maybe the clergy?), most of us fall somewhere between "I hate everyone who is not a white man" to "I am angry and don't know why." It is subtle, but it is there. And it stems from three main things: 1) fear, 2) ignorance, and 3) upbringing.
A black man was shot and killed during a traffic stop in the suburbs of Minneapolis. The officer...and I am not justifying his behavior by any means...had some moment in his life that made him fear coming in contact with a man who told him he had a legally-registered weapon on him during the stop. Police officers are trained to keep people safe, but they also trained to act fast and in the best interest of their own safety. Somewhere in the crosshairs of this officer's synapses firing, he was fearful.
Chicago has had over 1,500 shootings in the first six months of the year. If I were a police officer, I would fear for my life every time I left the house.
On the other hand, had this man been white and told the officer he had a legally-registered weapon, I feel with all of my heart that this traffic stop would have ended differently.
What is the solution? Well, it starts with acknowledging our own fears and our own beliefs. One of my nieces was watching a Barbie movie once, and she told me that she thought the princess belonged with the other prince in the movie because his skin was lighter. I asked her what she meant, and she said, "Dark goes with dark, and light goes with light." She was eight years old at the time. I told her that the dark prince was born that way, just like the light prince was born light-skinned, and you can't help who you fall in love with on the inside.
Hell...I can't imagine choosing someone eleven and a half years younger than me with two kids under the age of six if you COULD choose who you fell in love with.
My point is that the belief she spewed at me must have come from somewhere. Maybe another kid at school? Television? Her parents or grandparents, or some other member of her family that she sees on a regular basis? A book? A message within the Barbie princess movie that I did not catch myself? I have no idea...all I know is that we are equally accountable.
It doesn't matter if you have a chance encounter with a child or you are raising one. You have a responsiblity to not only your own generation, but the next one. Perhaps random acts of kindness are not newsworthy because they happen every day, and black men getting shot by police officers is newsworthy because it doesn't happen every day.
Wait. But it does, though. And it is getting increasingly difficult for police officers to do their job when they are shielded by their own fear. Twelve officers shot by snipers in Dallas, with one of them telling arresting officers that he wanted to kill white people before dying himself? It may not happen every day to the tune of twelve officers, but someone on the bus with you, in line behind you at Walmart, or passing you on the sidewalk while walking his or her dog wants to kill white people.
Right here, and right now.
Don't tell me you have black friends...you are still racist. Don't tell me you saw so-and-so's police record, so it's different...you are still racist. And please, for the love of god, don't tell me you don't see that in your everyday life. You do. But because you are racist and so is everyone around you, you accept it to a degree. So do I...nobody is a perfect lover of all creatures and things equally. But we need to strive for it anyway.
Do me a favor: thank police officers for their service the way you thank the military. Buy them a java. Show them respect. Yes, there are bad cops. I was told when investigating internal theft at Nordstrom that 3% of employees are thieves. I assume it's not just retail; that 3% can probably be applied to every profession across the board, and it is not just thievery.
Let's even give the media and anti-law-enforcement groups the benefit of the doubt. What if 10% of all cops were bad, and 3% of the population are bad? Well, I don't know about you, but I would much prefer 90% of a population of law-enforcement officers protecting me against the bad 3% of the population, than not having any law-enforcement at all.
Step back. Look at your life. Look at the news. It is okay if it makes you uncomfortable; if you watched the video that Philando Castile's girlfriend posted on facebook in the aftermath of her boyfriend being shot by police, and you are NOT uncomfortable, then that it something you need to examine immediately.
If you see news of a black man being shot by a police officer, it is possible he was a thug. It is possible he was resisting arrest. It is even possible he shot at the officer first. But most people assume this, instead of giving the benefit of the doubt to the black man.
While this case is still under investigation, it sure does appear that Castile did everything he was asked. And yet he was shot and killed in front of his girlfriend and her four-year-old daughter. What lesson do you think the four-year-old learned from this?
Ask yourself how you can be a better lover of all creatures and things. Hate itself is odd, because in some cases, it stems from betrayal. In most, however, it stems from something we can't quite put a finger to. When you feel hate or anger to something you can't attribute, is it because of an entire group or series of events? Then step back. Look at your life. Look at the news. Ask yourself if you are looking for a pattern, and look at the situation as individual instead of just another shooting, just another bad cop, just another black man as a victim...
Our kids deserve this, at the very least. If we end up better people in the end, then that is an even greater gift. The only way to stop being racist is to literally stop being racist. Do it.