Accept the things I cannot change?


I wasn’t planning on writing anything about the past week beyond the frustration I shared a few days ago about Social Media rushing to judgment.  A few people asked me to share though, so I am.

A lot of people have said it better than I can.  I’ll link a few that I really liked.

Those two spoke to me vividly and they’re from some of the best young minds we have working right now.  If you haven’t caught them you should.  Nothing I say will be as good as either.

Here’s where I am.  I’ve said my piece about policing in this country with the written word and face-to-face with almost anyone who will listen.  I think that police see certain people and certain communities as the enemy. They see starting a shift as going into battle. When the mindset moves from “helping the community” to “making it home at night” we’ve already lost. I’ve heard some ideas about how to change that. Hire from within the community, obligate officers to live where they work so that they’re part of the community, further training, more outreach, citizen oversight and others. Some of those are good.  Some aren’t.  It’s fine.  Ultimately the police aren’t the problem. They’re a symptom of the larger issue. Racism is still a driving force in this country. In many ways it’s THE driving force in this country.

How has it been at work this past week?

  • Alton Sterling, a person selling CDs, was called a “thug” because he had a gun and was shot. Nevermind that we still know basically nothing about this man. Nevermind that he had a gun in a place where he was legally able to. Nevermind the loaded and hurtful nature of that word. He was demeaned and diminished even in death for no apparent reason. Well, for one apparent reason.
  • Black Lives Matter was blamed for the deranged behavior of one person in Dallas. By that logic we should blame anti-choice protestors outside abortion clinics for the murder of Dr. George Tiller. I don’t hear anyone calling the people with the signs outside Planned Parenthood terrorists or thugs.
  • We have NY Post covers that are openly declaring a race war. This logic is lost on me. Here’s the message of Black Lives Matter distilled to its most basic point. “Stop shooting and killing people who look like me.” That’s it. It’s not complicated. No part of that means, “Shoot and kill other people.” I don’t want anyone to get shot, whether it’s Alton Sterling or Patrick Zamarripa or Trayvon Martin or anyone. I’m the guy who wrote about how I didn’t like the celebration over bin Laden’s death in 2011. When some  ask if BLM is celebrating the shootings in Dallas or the murder of Dylan Noble I’m unable to fathom that leap.
  • The mother of Alton Sterling was asked what she thought about the horrors in Dallas. Her response, “My son was just killed. I don’t know anything about Dallas.  I haven’t slept in days,” was heart-breaking and unfortunate. She should be able to grieve and honor her child without being asked to apologize for something wholly unrelated.
  • Rudy Giuliani pontificated on national television about what he’d do if he was an African-American father. Of course his advice was about how likely they are to be murdered by black people. Remember, the most likely killer of a person is his or her neighbors. It’s based on geography, not identify. I live in Naperville. Based on data the most likely person to kill me is white. (I also know the house number but that’s another story).  And I am an African-American father.  What I’ll tell my children, when they’re old enough is, “Don’t ever forget your heritage and to be proud! Also know that you won’t have to deal with many of the hardships of others because of your complexion. Most people at a glance won’t know you’re black and your life will be different because of it.” I’ll also tell them that even though daddy does his best and doesn’t commit crimes and works hard he might one day be killed because he looks different from them.

Those are just some of the things that made me open my eyes this week.  I’m not angry anymore.  I’m not sad either.  It’s the same thing over and over again. A percentage of people, my wife and I argued over the number, just don’t want people like me in this country.  They hate everyone who isn’t like them.  They hate gay people. They hate immigrants.  They hate Muslims.  They hate Black people. They hate Brown people. They want their “country back.” Back from whom, I always wonder.  Those people are happy with the recent violence. They see the role of police as security against that horde of people who aren’t like them. If some get killed that’s a small price to pay. They were “thugs” anyway. If they didn’t commit crimes yet they were going to.  The shooting in Dallas proved their point about the violent nature of the “other”.  To those people there’s nothing I, or anyone else, can do to change their minds.

I guess we’re not welcome in their country.  I guess the answer is to change the country.  We do that at the polls.  We do that by protesting.  We do that by demanding answers and accountability. Then we can decide if those people are welcome in our country.



One thought on “Accept the things I cannot change?

  1. James, beautifully written. In all my 81 years, I will NEVER understand prejudice. My mom raised me to love ALL people no matter what color, race, etc. In Sunday school as a little girl, I used to like song “Jesus Loves the Little Children”, and in it was mentioned “red, yellow, black or white, they are ALL precious in HIS sight”. That always stuck with me. Thank goodness I am not one of those shallow minded people. Aunt Joyce


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