I originally wrote this in response to Michael Brown’s murder in August 2014. I’ve updated it to reflect how I’m feeling two years later after the news of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile’s murders by police. Notice that not much has changed. We must do better.
My anger and sorrow around what’s happening in the USA, particularly black lives murdered by police officers, has not been easy to process. There are too many layers for me to even begin to try to dissect and I find myself asking a lot of questions.
First, I’ll start with a confession from two years ago.
I embarrassingly admit that I did not pay attention to Michael Brown’s death when it occurred because I was… busy. I was distracted; content in my own tiny and sometimes secure, privileged world. I had heard about it on the news and was shocked yet another unarmed teenager was killed. A black, unarmed, teenager was dead. And I remember talking with someone about it and drawing a connection to Trayvon Martin’s injustice. But I’m ashamed I wasn’t paying better attention.
I promise I’m paying attention now.
At the time, I didn’t care more than I could or should have, which is really messed up. Unfortunately, at the time, I pushed it aside as “just news” but did allow time to reflect on those generations before us who have tragically died for a similar reason, too many not even reported.
Perhaps the insensitivity on my part was an outcome of the desensitization from my former career as an addictions counselor, or maybe I’m so used to hearing about it in the news that it seemed like a common occurrence. I hate that I just wrote that. Maybe now I’ve reached a mindset that much of our nation, and in my opinion, the police force, has been trained to function on denial as the way to cope in our daily interactions. Seems we are combative in all we do these days. I’ve been programmed to not care.
I promise I care now.
According to joincampaignzero.org, Alton Sterling and Philando Castille “were the 184th and 185th black people killed by police this year. They should both be alive today.”
I remember when it was announced in the Ferguson case that the grand jury wasn’t going to indict the white officer who shot and killed Mike Brown. I was outraged that this boy was dead and that there were people out there blaming him,and due to the violence that broke out, people were more focused on that than the issue at hand.I was sickened to hear that the officer got an interview on television, which I have not watched and never will.
It’s something so much bigger than a police report. Lives are gone.
The number of people killed by police in 2016 is 599, according to joincampaignzero.org. The number of officers charged with a crime in killing someone is five.
This violence has gone on long enough. People are angry- raging- about the inequality in the USA and sadly, a lot of us are how I was when I heard the news on August 9, 2014… busy.
Why don’t we care?
The past few years, I’ve needed to care. Something inside aches knowing that yet another (and another!) shooting took place where a black American died.
I’ve been sick to my stomach, sad to tears, and furious that so many people have turned such a blind eye to this violence. And I’m not talking about violence from riots; I’m talking about violence in which another black person was killed. I’m OUTRAGED that no one seems to care about that. It seems much easier to push aside, standing firm in the belief that racism went out in the sixties. Can you honestly say that now?
My god, what has happened to us? Making excuses for death.
I suppose it’s much easier to believe that it’s not about racism. It’s easy to suggest that had any altercation taken place between two white men, the outcome would be the same. That’s no longer realistic.
Perhaps we need to talk about society in general.
Let’s talk about the rich versus the poor. Let’s talk about the insured and the uninsured and the gap in between. Let’s talk about those who can barely afford to put gas in their car to get to work and those who own five cars. Let’s talk about education. Let’s talk about why violence happens. Let’s talk about the media’s role. Let’s talk about more than just who is right and who is wrong. Let’s talk about trust. Let’s talk about faith in humanity.
Where has it gone?
So let’s talk. Let’s not be afraid to say what we need to say. Let’s not be so quick to judge others, but to accept that people should be allowed to disagree. Let’s listen openly and let’s stop with words that produce shaming. Let’s remember to forgive and honor the people who are resilient, admitting their mistakes. Enough with this narcissistic bullshit. Life matters. Black lives matter.
Let’s talk about Newtown, Cleveland, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Seattle, Chicago, and Waller Texas. Let’s continue to talk about Columbine. Let’s talk about guns. Let’s get to it; let’s debate whether or not it’s about guns or about regulating guns, or is it about mental health? And try not to get distracted by the noise. Let’s talk about distrust among the people, let’s talk about being busy, and let’s certainly talk about fear. Let’s remember and learn about black history. How for centuries we’ve expected other cultures to conform to our white, privileged lifestyles to the point of beating, harassing, and killing those who are not the same color as us. Let’s talk about the dangers of colorblindness. “We are all equal, I don’t see color” is harmful. Because we should see the color. The cultures, the beliefs, we should see them, because why wouldn’t we?
What have we become so afraid of?
We have become a society based on fear. We have allowed fear to have power over our words and actions. Fear of acceptance, fear of weakness, fear of insanity, fear of glorification, fear of having to go on living in a world of fear. All those things and more. We have become a nation afraid to speak up.
After processing (I’m still processing) my emotions about all of this, I realized something crucial: maybe it’s that I care too much. Maybe I made myself busy because it’s all so overwhelming. Where do I even begin to help in such a mess as this?
I promise I won’t give up on caring.
So where do we go from here?
We need to figure out how to talk to one another and to accept that we will disagree. If we want to preserve the sanity of our future generations, to eliminate the fear, we must educate ourselves. History is important to know.
If you’re not familiar with JoinCampaignZero.org, please get acquainted. I’ve learned heaps from their newsletters. They have helpful information about legislation proposals in congress to stop police violence. They have facts about the killings we can learn from. There are volunteer opportunities.
Our culture wants to be distracted and sometimes that’s okay for self-preservation. But it’s not okay if we never acknowledge the suffering. It’s easier to be busy. No one talks about it, no one comments, no one knows what the right thing is to say. Gulp. Fear.
So I’m waiting.
I am waiting for US to be shocked. I’m waiting for US to stop being so busy. I’m waiting to hear that we CARE and I can’t wait to hear the call for CHANGE.
Face those fears and try to listen. Find your voice. And maybe that means getting mad enough to do something (mad does not mean violent). Learn about what it means to be passionate about something, how to release the mad, and maybe if enough people let it go, change can occur.
I am determined to reclaim my faith in humanity.