Bad Apples

My emotions are raw. I’ll admit this first.

It doesn’t really matter to me what preceded Jacob Blake being shot 7 times in the back.

It just doesn’t.

I’m also not sorry if that doesn’t fit your narrative.

Perhaps Jacob Blake shouldn’t have walked away from the police. I would always advise listening to a police officer and doing what they say to do. Not complying though, shouldn’t lead to executions in the street.

I don’t know what was said between Jacob Blake and the police officers, and I’m not sure how many people do. I don’t know why guns were drawn in the first place. What I do know is that Jacob Blake was shot seven times at point-blank range.

Literally, the officer had his hand on Jacob Blake’s shirt when he fired his first shots.

In front of his children.

If this is just the act of a “few bad apples”, why does this keep happening? Why are so many willing to jump to that bad apple’s defense over the man lying in a hospital bed with a severed spinal cord facing the potential of never walking again?

Why can’t we remove the bad apples from the bunch?

It’s always interesting to me to see supposedly pro-life individuals defending the use of guns to kill other people. It doesn’t compute.

As far as athletes boycotting games – I support them. Mostly because it is their right to do so. If peacefully kneeling doesn’t create the necessary changes, then other options must be considered.

As a diehard sports fan, with the NBA being my favorite league, I’ll say this: if you feel inconvenienced by players not playing their games, maybe it’s time to re-think your priorities.

If you wish you could watch them play because they provide a nice distraction for you, that’s precisely the point.
Now is not the time to be entertained.

Now is not the time to be distracted.

We hear all the time that athletes should “just stick to sports”. I’m still trying to understand that in a logical, rational sense.

It’s silly. Maybe we should start telling electricians to “stick to electrical work”, or plumbers to “stick to plumbing”. Should we tell our pastors to “stick to Bible stuff”?

Who gets to decide what other people’s opinions are? Who gets to decide how someone else should use their platform?

Don’t want to be bothered? Neither do I, but I also don’t want to end up as another name with a hashtag.

This shouldn’t be about Black people vs. White people. It shouldn’t be a liberal vs. conservative argument. For me, it’s not an anti-police argument. What it is though, is a plea for all of us to work towards meaningful change in this country. Where we ALL have equal opportunities, where we ALL can move freely without fear of brutality in the back of our minds.

Jacob Blake’s mother said it best when she pleaded for all of us to “use our hearts, our love and our intelligence to work together to show the rest of the world how humans are supposed to treat each other”

Let’s start doing that.

in or out?

Nope.

  • If you haven’t understood what it means when you hear the phrase – Black Lives Matter – the answer is not to find your favorite Martin Luther King, Jr. quote to try to shame black people into some sort of submission.
  • If you are still saying All Lives Matter, it’s not your best move to find a video of a black person reiterating your stance. If you haven’t or are unwilling to listen to opposing views on the issue, you probably aren’t qualified to be making a public stance.
  • If you get irritated when you hear Black Lives Matter because you believe all lives matter, but then seek out a Blue Lives Matter meme, that action is canceling out your supposed belief.
  • If you are pro-life and mad about police being killed on duty by people rioting but aren’t mad about black people being killed by police, are you really pro-life? Are you placing value higher on one person’s life over another? If you are, why? Like, really… ask yourself why.
  • If your argument against the Black Lives Matter movement is that white people are killed by police too… what’s your actual point? That’s literally the whole focus of this. Of course all lives matter, even white lives who have been victimized by “a few bad apples”. Police brutality against anyone is unacceptable.

Here’s the thing. It’s understandable why racism is such a hot-button issue these days. Black people have been saying it loudly for centuries -injustices to people of color (POC) are happening here in this country. Right now. It’s just that in the past, it was easier to ignore us. Now, white people have started listening… and responding. Now the mantle isn’t being carried solely by people of color. It makes some folks awfully uncomfortable.

So now, non-POC, it’s time for you to make a choice. Are you in or are you out? More bluntly, are you with us are you against us? Because if you are, it’s time for you to be an advocate for change. It’s time for you to walk with us, figuratively and literally.

Before I go further, let me emphasize something.

You can advocate any way you choose. You don’t need a megaphone. You don’t need a large audience. You don’t need a different stage. Don’t let people shame you for your choice of action. If you haven’t posted on social media, that’s fine. If you haven’t attended a protest rally, that’s okay too. All you need is your voice and a willingness to use it. The rest will come.

In our media-frenzied culture, we can usually wait a day or two and whatever storm we are facing will blow over. Normally we can just bunker down for a bit and we can survive with little resistance. It’s not the case right now. This time, people are actually mad. The storm is hovering over the United States and it’s not letting up.

So the decision becomes not about weathering the storm but about what type of response are you going to give.

If you have grown tired of your Facebook feed being filled with racial-tension related articles, ask yourself why. Of course, it would be nice to go back to a timeline filled with baby pictures and puppies. People of color would love to fast forward to a time where we aren’t facing prejudice simply for the color of our skin.

If you are searching for MLK quotes, stop. Instead, listen to his words. Spotify is a good utility for that. His speeches back in the 1960s are applicable today. You can find them on YouTube. Listen for his passion in his voice, feel it, and then apply to your own life.

Also, no, he wasn’t beloved back then. No, he wasn’t simply calling for pacification. He was calling for disruption. He wanted to grind the system to a halt. Why?

Because protests aren’t meant to be convenient. Change doesn’t happen on a schedule.

Are you in or are you out?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black Lives… Matter.

I remember, as a young kid, attempting an experiment I had been dared to try. Not just by kids my age, but adults too. What would happen if scrubbed my hands long enough?

Could my hands turn white? Maybe I could be like everyone else – a phenomenon I hadn’t really experienced growing up in a small Northern Michigan resort town.

I had been informed this magic trick might actually work. I didn’t have much to lose. After all, my skin was dirty, or at least, not very clean. I had been told this enough times, I thought it might be true.

It was never explained to me why being white meant being clean. It has always just been assumed. Think about the language we use in our culture. The color white has been equated with cleanliness, purity and every good thing.

Things that are black – dirty, rebellious, evil, sin.

We even sang it in church, “What will wash us white as snow? nothing but the blood of Jesus”. I’ve never liked that song. I remember wondering if that meant I would always be bad.

Moreso, I had never really understood what was wrong with being black. I guess that had always been somewhat assumed too. After all, it was black people who did most of the crime, it was black unwed mothers living on welfare, purposely getting pregnant so they could steal money from the government and eat junk food while sitting on the couch, watching talk shows and soap operas all day. Black people sold drugs, infecting our good, innocent white youth with all sorts of problems.

White people doing the same things? They probably were just victims of circumstances. It really wasn’t their fault.

It’s black men who deserve to get beaten by the police.

It’s been a rough few weeks. I mean months. I mean years. I mean decades. I mean, it’s been a rough history for black people in this country. We’ve watched the videos and read the stories. We all know what’s going on right now.

America is at a breaking point. Really, a pivotal moment in our nation’s history. It might be one white-hot summer.

We say Black Lives Matter, not because black lives are more important than any other lives, of course not. We say it loudly because, and it’s hard to believe this still needs clarification, black lives have not been valued equally. Ever.

Black Lives Matter because I want my daughters to have the same freedoms and opportunities that white kids have.

I watch my almost 4-year-old daughter play or watch a movie or interact with other kids and wonder, sometimes in internal desperation – “how could anyone dislike my beautiful daughter simply because of her skin color?” And then think that my white parents probably asked the same question many times about me and my Hispanic siblings.

If my unborn daughter’s (expected arrival – September) life is so crucial for the Pro-Life crowd, consider that the life of my already born daughter is just as vital. And, not just until she reaches a certain age, either. Her entire life matters.

It really shouldn’t be that hard to say that Black Lives Matter. If it is for you, you should ask yourself why.

Being black in this country shouldn’t devalue a human being, it shouldn’t provide fewer opportunities and it certainly shouldn’t make black citizens fear going for a jog, driving a car, watching television at home on the couch or sleeping in bed.

Black Lives don’t deserve brutality and death simply because they might be accused of passing a counterfeit bill or selling cigarettes without tax stamps.

Black Lives deserve equality. Black Lives deserve the right to pursue the same lives, liberties and the ability to pursue the same happiness as anyone else.

Black Lives deserve the right to know that our skin is just as clean as anyone else’s.

Black Lives Matter.

Words matter.

“You’re really smart, for a black person” – I was told once.

“Don’t worry, she’s probably so curious because she’s never seen a black boy before” – I was told by a neighbor when I was around 9 years old, about her granddaughter, who was an infant.

“If you weren’t a black boy, I’d kick the shit out of you” – I was told once when I was 10 or 11 and hadn’t delivered the newspaper to my customer’s satisfaction.

“You speak really well for being, you know, black” – I’ve been told more than once.

“Do your parents know, that he’s… (black)” – past girlfriends have been asked.

“You’re the whitest black person I know” – I’ve been told as if being adorned with a medal of achievement.

“You’re not really black, you’re really a white man trapped in a black man’s body” – I’ve been told, almost as a term of endearment.

“Hey James, can you teach me ebonics?” – I’ve been asked by co-workers who are now pastors.

“Nigger” – I’ve been called this more than once.

America, words matter.

They always matter. They sting, they bite, they blind, they hurt, they kill.

They also have the power to do the opposite, if you choose.

I’ve lived in White America for most of my life.
At first, it wasn’t my choice. Then it was because it’s all I’ve known. I’ve never really known whether to take comfort in it or be ashamed for it.

I’ve endured endless amounts of ridicule, embarrassment and attempted shaming all due to the color of my skin. I say attempted shaming. because I’ll always be proud of the color of my skin. I’ll always be proud of my bloodlines and of those who came before me.

I know what it’s like to live in fear of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or maybe – the right place – just with the wrong people nearby.
Countless times I’ve been told by someone that they thought they saw me somewhere I wasn’t, in an area I’ve never been.
They laughed it off, my fear rose.
When will they come for me with handcuffs and false accusations simply because I “fit the description”?

You see, the murder of George Floyd is about so much more than simply an act of “a bad cop”. It highlights the systemic failures of a society that has been rooted in racist behavior long before any of us ever got here.
I say “us” because you know, slave ships and all that inconvenient history and all.
They like to discuss the hostile takeover of the original inhabitants of this land by calling it “The Trail of Tears” as if it were just a few crying tag-a-longs, not human beings brutally driven from the only homes and land they knew. Oh, and thousands died during this.

This is the soil of America. This is the foundation this country was built upon.

The murders of George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Malik Williams, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Heather Heyer and many more, are the results of generations of ignorance, misinformation and hatred bred right here in this land of the free.

Their deaths keep the fear alive. Fear that I’ll jog down the wrong street, be pulled over by the wrong cop, or wear my hoodie around the wrong person.

Yes, white people are killed by police too, and that is equally wrong. White people definitely have faced injustices of all kinds. Of course, not all police are bad and there are more than a few “bad apples” out there. But, for the sake of my young daughter and my daughter arriving this fall, I refuse to allow this to be accepted simply because “hate will always exist” or whatever tired phrase people want to throw out there.

I’ve seen a range of emotions regarding the rioting and looting that’s happening around the country. I don’t condone this sort of action outright, though these are people who feel that they’re very existence has been marginalized. These are people who have been told to protest peacefully, and nothing changed. These are people who feel unheard.

Dr. King said it best – “In the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear?”

When the president calls those involved in riots “THUGS” and white supremacist’s “very fine people”, he’s not listening. He’s not listening to the voices of those who have been calling for change long before he assumed his power. When you speak about how wrong people are for their actions, maybe think about the causes first, and not the effect.

Consider what it’s like to walk a day in someone else’s shoes, not just your own, where you know where they walk and are comfortable and content in that path. Others have a different path than you.

Racism is systemic. It’s taught. It’s not in our genes, it’s not in our DNA. It’s a choice. It’s a choice to remain ignorant of the pleas of others. It’s a decision to ignore the plight of others because they might look different, act different, or think differently than you.

So, when you speak, remember that what you say has life-lasting effects. Speaking without facts is dangerous. Speaking with love, kindness and empathy can be life-giving. Think about the experiences of others first before you speak.

America, words matter. Choose them wisely.