Saturday, September 24, 2016

Listen

I generally react only in my head to Facebook posts because engaging in an argument on Facebook seems to be the least fruitful way to spend my time. I don’t even know why I’m writing this now. I guess it’s because I write in order to express myself and the current race relations in America have been clouding my mind for several days now.

There are people that I love on both sides of the debate that are angry. In fact, the whole country seems to be scared and angry and forgive me, but that doesn’t seem right to me.

It occurs to me that the issue is a fundamental disconnect between what certain people believe to be “the problem.” If you don’t believe that racism is inherently engrained into “the system,” then of course, it doesn’t make sense to you why black people are so angry.

So many of us live in a bubble. “Well, I’m not racist so I guess I don’t understand what this is all about.” Here’s the thing, I don’t even think that every white cop who has discharged a weapon on a black person is what we think of as a racist.

In general, we consider racists to be those whacky uncles that live in the boondocks that we only see once or twice a year. Sure, they throw around the “n” word, but they’re harmless, right? They don’t play a role in modern day society. That’s not true. Violent bigotry still exists in the voting booth. Until it doesn’t, it’s a problem.

Systemic racism is a little different than flat out racism. Systemic racism is that thing we don’t really think about. It’s what may make us clutch our wallet when we walk near a black person in the mall or lock the doors when we are driving in the west end. Systemic racism is when we see an image of black folks after Katrina running with groceries and we call it looting but see the same image of white folks doing it and say they were taking it for survival.

Systemic racism happens when we are taught certain neighborhoods are bad. This is also why the media uncovers every bad thing they can find on people being shot by police when they are killed but when a cop is killed, they talk about them being a good husband and loving father. This is why when you see a black person getting shot by police, the knee jerk reaction is to be like, “why didn’t they just do what they were supposed to.”  I’ve thought it too. In my head I’ve screamed, “PLEASE JUST DO WHAT THEY SAY.”

Here’s a fact. This country has a foundation and part of that foundation is that every American citizen has a right to a fair trial. Now, back in the day, black people weren’t considered citizens. Since the law made it clear that they are citizens A LONG TIME AGO, things have progressed in some ways but black people have been fighting a long time to get what the constitution promises: a FAIR trial.

So, let’s for a moment assume that every black person approached by the police had a reason to be followed. Let’s assume that they had drugs in their pocket, a gun on their hip (which is legal in a lot of places) and let’s even assume they said something they shouldn’t have to the cop. Is it annoying that they aren’t following the rules? Yes. Does it mean they don’t deserve a fair trial? No. The truth is, they were also somebody’s family and now they are dead and they can’t get the rights afforded to them by the constitution…which is inherently, un-American.

Are black people the only ones mistreated by police? No, so let’s have more checks and balances. I believe that a majority of cops are doing their best to serve and protect their community. It also seems to me they would want trust from the community so how do we do that?

Well, I for one, don’t get the feeling that any of us are really listening to each other. We live in the greatest country in the world and with that comes a level of arrogance. We are automatically defensive over what is “ours.” Don’t you talk about MY country that way! If we think about it though, we all have issues in some capacity about the way the country is run.

Do you think Hillary is a crook? I know many of you do. I’ve even seen some of you compare Obama to ISIS. Should I call you out and say that you aren’t patriotic? You called our president a terrorist. When people condemned Bush, it was an all out slug fest to claim those people aren’t real Americans.

The point is, America is so much to so many. We can disagree with the way it’s run and still think it’s great. I get so confused by the “Make America Great Again” statement because people are also very defensive about it. I wish I had a dollar for every time someone said, “If you don’t like this country, leave” in the past few days. So, is it a country that needs to be great again or a country that is already great and threatened by people wanting to change it?

I feel as lost as many of you do. I get it. I am torn on many levels. I have a wide range of students this year. Some are students at Shelton’s Fredd campus who have been afforded very few privileges in life. They don’t know many basic things that a lot of us take for granted. One student even asked me if I thought he was dumb.

Then, I have some (not all) students at UA who are privileged (not that they should be punished for that) and one of them, out of all the argumentative papers he could have chosen, decided to write his paper as an advocacy of hate speech. In his mind, his version of someone taking his freedom is to not have the ability to use racial and homophobic slurs. I found this mind blowing.

Sure, you have a right to use hate speech and nobody should be able to take that away. If I can admit to that than can we all take a moment and admit that in this country, we have a problem and it’s a problem that isn’t going anywhere. Can we unite and at least agree to hear each other out?

There’s always someone to hate. As a country, people have united against members of the LBGTQ community, the Muslim community and anyone else looking to be treated like a normal member of society.

So many people that are so angry are people who have preached the gospel, shared Bible verses and treated others with kindness. Then they turn around and say some of the most hateful things. I don’t feel the love.

In the same sense, I also don’t appreciate being told what to do. I have seen a lot of people I agree with say that silence is just as bad as racism. I hear you but I don’t necessarily agree. In our day to day lives, we are all trying to just make it through. I have a unique opportunity with young people to listen and engage and perhaps even change some minds. I am doing much more to try and make change in my job than I would do by posting daily articles on Facebook. I’m fine with people who do that…that’s how you speak out but it’s not for me. I guess I just believe that building relationships of trust and dialogue is the most important thing you can do.

Everyone can protest or speak out in their own way. As for me, the American Flag symbolizes soldiers who have died for our country. Therefore, I wouldn’t sit during the national anthem but I also don’t think someone that does should leave the country or is any less American.

Many athletes and rappers that you all follow and worship, grew up in underprivileged communities. They’ve seen some of these things first hand. Who am I to step out of my bubble and tell them what to believe? These athletes and musicians are so important because they are beacons of social change. The kids that are from the neighborhoods they are from look up to them, listen to their lyrics so what they say and do DOES matter.

I know this is long and if you’ve made it this far, I appreciate you listening. I don’t know everything. I do know that I care if there are people who are uncomfortable in their own country. I’m a woman and though I’ve never known what it’s like to be a black person, I have seen wage discrimination first hand, I have had a man grab me inappropriately because he can and I have felt that my opinion isn’t important. I know how that makes me feel and I know the people I love wouldn’t want me to feel that way.

I know that I am proud of many things about this country. I’m proud of the countless men and women in the armed services and police force that do what they can to protect us. I know that there are problems though and I don’t know all the answers but I do know that unless we engage in dialogue and actually listen to each other, nothing will ever change.





2 comments:

  1. It comforts me knowing that you're in a classroom with young people and you're helping educate them. I think you're doing a great job making a difference in their lives and opening up their minds. <3

    ReplyDelete