I didn’t plan on writing today, but I needed to get it out.
Being openly racist has costlier consequences now than any other time in American history. This does not mean race relations has improved or that there are that there are less racist people in the US since the Civil Rights movement of the 60’s. The underlying issue is that racism exists in the subtleties of everyday life and the imbalance of power that still exists in our country.
It is important to realize that non whites have less influence and less political power which has resulted in hiring practices, educational policies, and judicial processes that more often (and in larger numbers) has negatively impacted non whites. This does not mean that all non whites are doomed to be a “victim to the system” and that personal responsibility is absolved, but it does suggest that we will continue hear about unfortunate events like Ferguson in other cities and towns across America until genuine conversations about race can be facilitated in schools and communities. It saddens me when I turn on the news and see people who look like me rioting and burning buildings in their own hometown. These actions will not facilitate a peaceful resolution and will only perpetuate the fears and prejudices that many people already have about minorities, city life, and race relations.
All parents need to talk with their children about race and privilege. These conversations need to be more dynamic and organized than the awkward and almost nonsensical “birds and bees” conversation parents have many years too late with their children. Instead, it should be an ongoing dialogue that will only continue to grow as you and your child’s worldview increases. Even as an adult, I continue to educate myself on my history and amazed to see how the effects of slavery still manifest in the Black community in both large and small ways even today….will this cycle ever be broken?
As a young man, I was told, “speak to police officers, judges, teachers, staff members or anyone else who may have power in any given situation the same way you would talk to your grandparents- directly, clearly, and in a respectful manner”. I was lucky to have a fairly affluent upbringing in a town where many police officers were an extension of my own family and were not seen as threats to my own personal safety.
Outside of my lovely hometown, police have followed me, checked my license and tags dozens of times, ticketed me, held me at gunpoint, and even temporarily arrested me. For 99% of those interactions (I did trespass into a condemned mental hospital and got caught at 17- that’s another story), I did nothing wrong. As a 6’2, 250+lb Black man, my stature alone “could” be perceived as threatening so it was always important for me to speak respectfully, have my hands visible at all times, and to make sure my actions did not uncessarily escalate into violence.
You can fight a ticket in court, but you can’t replace a human life. As my dad said, “I’d rather be judged by six (jury members), than carried by eight (pall bearers).” More on this soon. All lives matter.