Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #371 - I am not afraid of the police; but maybe you should be
Hi Mom, Ever since I started this blog, I have been tagging it three ways, always, every single one: Hey Mom, Family, Love. If you look at my categories, they are all there, all the posts, in all three, for a year. Throughout the year, I considered removing the Family and Love tags, as it seemed redundant, and though all my posts were to you, Mom, not all were about Family and Love, unless the mere act of writing to you meant that by default they were also about these topics.
Now, that I have passed the one year mark, I thought about removing those tags and only using Family and Love when the post was specifically targeting those topics. I feel today is a good day to stop the practice because I have no love for what keeps happening on our country as black men are killed because they are black. And though these young men, who should not die for the color of their skin and the racist society in which we live, have families, and I acknowledge that fact, and I feel part of their Family in the broad sense of humanity and love (trying to love) my fellow humans, they're not my family.
Time to stop the category out of respect, really. Because I am white. I can read books, I can talk to people of color, I can feel outrage, I can know about the experiences of black people swimming against the current of insidious and perfidious racism that floods our country, but I will never really KNOW what it is like to be in their shoes, to live with this terrible burden, and to really be part of their family in the truest sense of shared experience of something so fundamental and pervasive to their lives.
I have been thinking a lot about this issue of race and racism this year, as I learned about Ta-Nehisi Coates, who is a writer and a columnist for The Atlantic. His book, Between the World and Me, won the National Book Award last year, and so I decided it would make a good read in my class at WMU, bringing the total books I am teaching in that course to three books in 15 weeks. Not too difficult. But with this one, I plan to handle it in the first 3-4 weeks of the course, and I have been trying to figure out how to teach it, how to engage students.
Coates did a good job of characterizing the experience of growing up as a young black man in inner city Baltimore, one of the more rough and tumble sectors of our country, much like the north side of Philadelphia and the south side of Chicago. I have been meaning to write a review of it, and I think I will, separately, as it will be good preparation for teaching the book. But I am mentioning it because it speaks directly to the murder of Philando Castile in Minnesota on Wednesday July 6, the murder of Alton Sterling in Louisiana on Tuesday July 5, and the countless brutalizations, murders, and senseless crimes committed against black men and women in the name of "justice."
But then to make matters much, much worse, a sniper killed five police officers and injured seven others during protests of the Castile and Sterling murders taking place in Dallas on Thursday night July 7th.
A cycle of violence will continue until we take action. But I have no words of advice for what this action should be.
In this blog entry, in addition to some informative links, I am sharing all of John Scalzi's post on the Castile murder because it so closely mirrors my own thoughts. Like Scalzi, I am a geeky, middle-aged, straight white male, who has never really feared the police. I have never had cause to fear that I would be shot and killed by the police. Not ever. I have not always liked the police and the handling of me or my friends or my family in routine traffic stops or barricades. I have been very critical of police my whole life, but with the exception of a few arguments I have had with them in and out of traffic court, I generally treat them with respect and deference because their job is a very, very, VERY difficult job. They put their lives on the line for my safety, to keep the peace, every day, all the time. And many of them die for this concept of safety.
And yet, both of these recent murders are not about keeping the peace or safety. They appear to be about racism. They appear to be motivated by fear of black men. They appear to be gross in negligence and dereliction of duty and in outright hostility and brutalization of innocent citizens. And yet, I continue to add "appear to be" because despite captured video (see links), none of us fully understand what truly motivated these officers to kill these men. And like most people in the nation, I want to know. Though the answers will surely confirm that these officers made fatal mistakes, I am hoping to learn that their actions were motivated by fear rather than hatred. I know police officers live in fear that all the time they can be shot unless they shoot first. It's only in movies and TV shows that the police have the luxury to wait until the camera gives us a close up of a gun in the assailant's hand. In real life, there's no camera close up and everything is happening very fast. I want to forgive these officers. I want to know that there is a reasonable explanation for what happened. I want to know that they did their due diligence. I do not want to find fault with the victims. I am not looking to learn that these men "had it coming" because I am reasonably certain that neither did.
I want to understand, and I want the answer to be something other than racism. And yet, I suspect that this is the real answer, though the words may never be spoken by officials, courts, or politicians.
And I don't want to live in the racist, sexist world full of bigots and haters anymore.
But that's where we live, and it's my job as a writer and an educator to try to raise consciousness. I am not a protester or an activist, but I am writer and a teacher. I can make a difference.
So here's some links. There's general reference for the two murders of the black men and the Dallas protest massacre. And then there's an older post by Scalzi (2014) to go with the new one categorizing discrimination and making a very cogent argument that because we live in a racist/sexist/other-ists society that we ourselves are sexist, racist, and several other discriminatory practices ending in -ist. But that like Scalzi, I try to fight against it. I have fought this fight my whole life, even before I became a teacher. As a school kid, I fought against bullying because I was bullied. And like Scalzi, I am not perfect. I did some bullying. I have been a bigot at times. I have been afraid. I have been stupid. But I like to think I am less afraid, less stupid, and less judgmental with each passing year, with each new experience, with each new affirmation that ACCEPTANCE and not tolerance is the answer.
And from what you can learn at the first link, it sounds like Philando Castile was a pretty cool guy. It's a shame that he was murdered. I wish we didn't live in a world in which things like that happen.
Philando Castile: Five Facts you Need to Know: Heavy.com
ALTON STERLING SHOOTING - CNN
FIVE DALLAS POLICE OFFICERS KILLED
Scalzi's The Four Levels of Discrimination (And You) (And Me Too)
From Scalzi's WHATEVER:
Reflect and connect.
Have someone give you a kiss, and tell you that I love you.
I miss you so very much, Mom.
Talk to you tomorrow, Mom.
- Days ago = 373 days ago
- Bloggery committed by chris tower - 1607.12 - 10:10
NOTE on time: When I post late, I had been posting at 7:10 a.m. because Google is on Pacific Time, and so this is really 10:10 EDT. However, it still shows up on the blog in Pacific time. So, I am going to start posting at 10:10 a.m. Pacific time, intending this to be 10:10 Eastern time. I know this only matters to me, and to you, Mom. But I am not going back and changing all the 7:10 a.m. times. But I will run this note for a while. Mom, you know that I am posting at 10:10 a.m. often because this is the time of your death.