What have I brought two wonderful children into?
This weeks news is just going to rip us further apart from one another– much like the presidential election we are all being forced into. We are all encouraged, if not forced, to take a side– pick one or the other– and we REALLY don’t like either– we tolerate them, they are a part of our story as a nation– even through it’s a story that sounds better as a fable than a reality. Wait, am I still talking about the Presidential race or am I now talking about the PO-Lice vs the Black Man?
We are again back to the difficult time that we never quite fix– the old issue of race and power. Last week, another two black males are gunned down — lethal shots that kill both of these people. Both were carrying, you guessed it, guns. Because they are black, its automatically a race thing, but the Police Officer who shot the guy in St. Paul was Asian. He said he fired because he knew the guy had a gun on him– the guy also had a traffic citation sheet with over 2 dozen infractions– but nothing more serious than petty driving citations. He told the Police he had permit and a gun and the guy shoots him multiple times when he is looking for his wallet.
We all know these stories and we all know how often they happen– and keep happening. The difference with these two is that they were caught on camera and immediately sent out before a sensor would stop them– the public at large is already laying down the verdict of guilty before the courts even get the paperwork in order– and I am not saying that they are right or wrong, but I am saying that the game is changing significantly.
People keep asking what can do we do… How do we get past this? What happens next?
There is no good answer– and the macro problem– police trained to use lethal force– race relations between law enforcement– prejudice — these are all things that are so heavily engrained in our American fabric that it seems impossible to think about fixing on a national scale. We have to start local– in our communities– we have to start going out there and making sure that our leaders aren’t just hearing the need for change from Black Lives Matter or the Police Guild– but that we the people want change– but what kind of change do we want? How much sweat equity are we all willing to put into it all for the greater good?
I used to be engaged in the race conversation– I used to care a lot more than I have lately because I grew up seeing the racial inequality, I grew up seeing the racism– I grew up seeing people blaming people of other color for their own problems– that blacks got more chances than a white person does. I went to college and I read and listened to Cornel West and Marabel Manning and Bell Hooks who talked about the deck being stacked against blacks and other people of color — and overtime, I began to forget about all I have learned because I live in a city like Seattle that doesn’t have a black problem that is right in front of your face– its much more subtle, much more of the focus of what you see everyday– but you don’t have to look very hard and you see it all over again.
and the Police.
The Police have their own issues as well– again, Seattle doesn’t have the same issues, but you don’t have to look too hard and you see the same patterns– profiling. Pulling the same people over and over and over and over again, pulling over older cars because they are usually driven by younger people or people just trying to get to their shitty minimum wage jobs– they get a ticket they can’t pay for, they get their license suspended, they still have to get to work– its a never ending cycle– and once you are in the system, it is very hard to get back out of it. When I saw that guy in Saint Paul get shot, it reminded me of the last summer I spent in Pullman, driving a beat up old Volvo around town and the cops would pull me over all the time– and once I didn’t pay one ticket– I totally forget to pay one — and they suspended my licenese– so they pulled me over, knowing I had a suspended license. When I was surprised, the guy just laughed at me and told me I couldn’t drive– so I had to walk home. When I went back the next day to get the car, they had towed it. TOWED IT!!! In the goddamn wheatfields. I got another ticket for car abandonment! So when we drove to pick it up out of impound, the same cop was waiting for me at the base of the hill I lived on, waiting to see me driving the car home the 2 miles from the tow yard. Wrote me another ticket! This time he was nice enough to let me park it in my driveway…. So sometimes it isn’t always the color of your skin — sometimes its just a power thing– sometimes a cop just likes to be a dick– but the game is changing.
Police have become more heavily armed now– they are much more likely to pull a weapon than before I think– I still have yet to see an officer pull his weapon on me, but I expect at some point it will be the norm– and that is not really the America I wanted to raise my sons in– I understand that there are bad people out there, but a gun escalates a situation 1000X– it forces someone to do something and a lot of times that isn’t the best outcome. I will remain unarmed for the rest of my life– and if a gun takes my life– I hope that a broken judicial system find justice in shooting an unarmed man– it certainly should– and that is part of the sadness of this story– these 2 men that were killed will more than likely not see justice served because they were both carrying — Alton Sterling, killed in Lousiana the day after he purchased the handgun for protection after other guys selling CD’s were recently robbed– Alton Sterling had been tazed TWICE before the officers tackled him and shot him point blank. It’s just sad.
We can do better– we have the technology, we have the time– we can do better. Our future depends on us taking the time to make a difference– not just wait for an organization to make things better.
What can we do?