Shedding big tears this morning, watching the horrendous murder of yet another citizen. How do friends of color keep breathing? Keep walking through these streets that assume the worst of you when a routine problem happens, like a car stalling? Your strength and courage astound me, yet what choice do you have. Like telling people with cancer how strong they are. There is no choice. You live with this. You have to keep walking.
I don’t know about you, but I can barely hear someone talking right next to me if my boys are yelling nearby. Put a helicopter above me with three cops screaming instructions while I’m scared out of my mind and I doubt I’ll hear anything except my heart pumping. We are human. We aren’t robots with perfect senses, able to follow instructions under any circumstance. Even the best intentions to follow instructions during an arrest may not yield behavior that an officer expects.
Have we no understanding that all of our senses and brains process information differently? We have fragile communication systems. A missed instruction should never be a ticket to death. Even a combative citizen shouldn’t be killed. We bring mass murderers alive into prisons on a regular basis. Someone with mental health problems or a brain injury shouldn’t be shot because they’re upset or can’t follow instructions. Well, you know what? All of us have imperfect brains. We’re basically all brain injured to some degree or another. Neurology is complicated. Everyone drew a short stick one way or another, or they earn one after a knock or two to their head.
I want systems in place that take our humanity into account. For both the citizen and the officer. Our perceptions, our processing skills, our biases, our ability to communicate, and our ability to act calmly while feeling threatened? It all varies widely as humans. Everyone misperceives situations. We all make mistakes. No one should die because of it. And goodness, if we’re going to allow officers to shoot, can’t they at least shoot a leg? Why must they shoot to kill?
America breaks my heart and makes me so angry. Over and over again, innocent lives are stolen by those in power. If you still don’t understand why protests happen and are necessary, why people are angry about our systems, why people are demanding police accountability, why Kaepernick sat, why there is a Black Lives Matter movement, why your voice may not be trusted if you are a person in power, or why majority voices are not the most important voices of civil rights movements…LISTEN. WATCH. WAKE UP.
Who do we listen to? I’ve been learning from my friends who are vulnerably entering these discussions. Thankful for my courageous friends. Also, a little local paper, The South Seattle Emerald speaks truth into these matters. Finally, leaders like Ta-Nehisi Coates (Between the World and Me – read it!), Bree Newsome, Deray McKesson, and other BLM voices are opening my eyes. This syllabus provides ample material, too: http://www.blacklivesmattersyllabus.com/blacklivesmatterfall2016/
White friends, who are you learning from?