In light of the last few days and my #Blacklivesmatter Facebook post (above) and the crazy that happened in the comment section, I wanted to share a story but before I even start I want a preface it with this. I know this analogy is flawed in a variety of ways, but I hope after reading it you simply understand better where I’m coming from. But one thing I want to address before I get going is that this analogy assumes that the youth in the video were actually doing something wrong. LET ME BE CLEAR, at this point I do not hold that view point. I am unsure of whether or not the youth were standing up for their rights to actually be at a pool party they were invited to and standing up to a racist white woman who was using racial slurs, or whether or not they were NOT supposed to be there and were being removed. There are TOO many stories of what really happened to claim one or the other. And again, like my facebook post said, the story of what happened before doesn’t matter. Because two wrongs don’t make a right. But for my white friends, who keep insisting that it does matter, this analogy is for you.
When I was little I would aggravate the snot out of my older brother. I’d get under his skin, and when he’d tell me to leave him alone I kept going. It’s what little sisters do best, and I took my job seriously. Here’s the thing, eventually my brother would over-react and being bigger and older would clock me. Now, I hear some of you out there thinking already, “Well you deserved it! It taught you a lesson, didn’t it?” Eh, no. Because the punishment for a little sister following her brother around being mouthy, singing obnoxious songs, and just being plain annoying should never be met with violence.
My Father, being a good dad, would sit me down and my room and tell me that I needed to learn boundaries, that I shouldn’t mouth of to my brother or annoy him to the point of anger. And he would talk to me about consequences for my actions and how he wouldn’t always be here to protect me. So I needed to learn quickly to reign in my mouth.
Then he’d go into my brother’s room and he would tell him that if he ever laid a finger on me again, the consequences would be severe. Because, violence is never the solution. Because taking advantage of someone smaller than you is a weak thing for a man to do. And because coercing someone into behaving how you want them to is only a short term solution. Because regardless of whether or not I was in the right or wrong, and regardless of whether or not Matthew was justified in FEELING annoyed. His actions were still wrong. They were still extreme. And my dad knew that two wrongs never made a right, and punishing my brother and upholding him to a higher standard didn’t let me off the hook or justify my actions. But it did prevent future situations from getting worse.
Now all of this is taking place in a safe familial environment. Both my brother and I trust our dad. We love him and we both know he has our best interest at heart. When I have an interaction with a police officer, this is what I usually assume. He has my best interest, and the best interest of my community in mind.
Yall, white friends, I think if we’ve been listening to our black friends and communities, many of them are trying to tell us that they don’t feel the same way. They don’t see a white cop and feel safe or comforted. Regardless of whether or not you feel that’s justified, in light of racial tension in our country (the recent indictment of South Carolinian police officer who killed a black man, the riots in Baltimore, Ferguson, etc.), you have to acknowledge that the fear is real. It’s safe to say that some in our black communities do not view our police forces as we white people do. So can we stop pretending like our responses to them will be the same, whether we wish they were or not?
And the argument of “If you don’t commit a crime you don’t have to worry about being in that position” is just flawed and has to stop. Please, one man’s wrong doesn’t justify another’s. Again, there’s a phrase my parents used to say to me when I’d try to justify my bad behavior by blaming my brother, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” Being a mouthy teenager doesn’t mean you should be treated with brutality at best or at worst have a gun drawn on you when you try to defend an unarmed girl getting man-handled (#McKinney). Sure, let’s teach our youth to respect authority. But can we stop pretending that “they just need to respect authority” is the simple solution to this multi-faceted problem?
Because what do you do when the authority is wrong? What do you do? What if the kid they’re putting in handcuffs is indeed innocent and is only in handcuffs because he meets the description of “African American male?” Is it wrong to approach the scenario and say, “Wait, he’s not done anything wrong?” and then when you’re met with a hot-headed profane officer of the law with a gun, what do you do? It’s not as clean of a situation as we white people would like. But these questions, these conversations, we have to start having them with our children and in our communities, because these questions are a reality for some.
It is time we learn that we don’t have to choose sides to choose justice. I love our police officers. I think all of them were sincere when they started their professions. I think most of them are sincere still today, but of course I do, I’m a white middle class woman. But just because I love and support an organization, doesn’t mean I am unable to say, “Hey, I think that was wrong there.” Instead, I’m saying let’s change the conversation. Let’s give our officers the funding and training to do their best jobs possible. Let’s make racial reconciliation a top priority in our communities and in our police forces. Let’s LISTEN to our black brothers and sisters when they say something makes them feel uncomfortable (at best) and terrified for their lives (at worst). And then TOGETHER let’s make a plan for progress.
It doesn’t have to be either/or. It doesn’t have to be us vs. them. Disagreement doesn’t have to mean division. Let’s have healthy discussions and respectful debates. Let’s support our police and still listen to our black and interracial families’ stories, complaints, and solutions. Let’s not silence one voice just because we can’t see their view point.
It’s not either/or, rather it’s both/and. But before we can get there, we have to at least acknowledge that racial tension still exists, and have ready hearts to hear where BOTH sides are flawed.
And with that, for now, I’m done. Comment away, but keep it classy and respectful please!