July 10, 2016

On Racism and Police Brutality

I came to the US at the height of civil rights and found a voice within me that decried all forms of prejudice and racial scapegoating. This is when I began to write.
Ann Arbor, MI -- 1964
Tresa, Tim, Me, Dad, Linda, Mum

Coming from a county where policemen did not apply fire hoses to anyone, I discovered my twelve-year-old self outraged that so many white people had so many excuses for police brutality--especially in the name of God. I see we've come full circle.

For decades we've lived in slow but sure progress, at least on the surface, but with the election of Obama that surface shattered, giving way to the entrenched and systematic hatred that seems to define America.

When St. Louis Police Office, Ronald L. Fowlkes, can email 23 other city cops the day after elections with "I can’t believe I live in a country full of NIGGER LOVERS!” (followed by 31 exclamation points) it's indicative that blacks DO live in a scary shadow no white person ever has to know.

Rather than deflect and scapegoat by bringing up past behaviors and even rude and inappropriate responses of those killed by corrupt cops with their own history of aggressive overreach (in the same way we blame women for their rape, beating, etc. for what they're wearing or drinking), we can only escape the escalating violent chaos by naming that we have a problem. This should not be interpreted as anything but what it is. To say corrupt cops shouldn't shoot blacks is NOT saying all cops are corrupt, nor is it saying we don't appreciate good cops. The two statements are not mutually exclusive. And no problem is ever resolved if it remains unsaid. And by resolving the issue? We rid ourselves of racism with the added benefit that we make the lives of good cops--hard at work to keep us safe--so much safer!

I was twelve when Sandy, a black girl, and I became friends. I was twelve when I had sleepovers at her house, with too many children crammed into close quarters, Sandy and I curled up on broken bed, my back to the thin wall that allowed me to hear the black dialect of Michigan's impoverished working class. I was twelve when I understood that her family faced discrimination daily, that violence met her every day at school. I was twelve when I understood that I loved this family.

Love forever freed me from the sin of racism--or prejudice of any kind--so prevalent in this country I adopted as my own.

The following blog http://maryalicebirdwhistell.blogspot.com/2016/07/we-can-not-not-know-any-more.html was written by my son and daughter-in-law's minister. Her thesis is that we have to know what it's like to be black. I did this when I was twelve. I invite everyone to do the same.

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