I’ve been resisting the urge to be political or comment on racial tensions that yet again (still) seem to be pulling my home country apart. In a way it seems to be because many people do not think it is possible to respect two groups of people at the same time.
The last time I lived in the USA was about 12 years ago. Sometimes it seems that so much has changed and at other times it seems nothing has changed.
My major hobby in the states was community theatre. In five years I was involved in over 30 productions. One of the great things about that group was that it welcomed people from all walks of life. Being a large college town there were of course many of us students. And then there were professors and administrators. But it didn’t stop there.
Our regular stage and crew volunteers were made up of construction workers, librarians, school teachers, lawyers, restaurant workers, artists, museum employees. Basically if you can think of a job they were probably once participated in our theatre. This includes police officers.
The law enforcement members who joined our group were just like ever odd else. They weren’t any more or less anything when compared with anyone else. Through that and other experiences I have some very fond memories of the police.
And I have some memories that aren’t so fond. Now, I’m a middle class white kid who avoided situations where cops were likely to show up. And yet encounters with police are a part of life. And even in those encounters there have been some really well meaning and acting officers. And there have been those who within a few seconds you can tell at eager for things to escalate so they can flex their power. For all my positive encounters with police there were still times when I have been afraid.
I say that as someone coming from a middle class white background. I can’t speak for the black experience. It would be silly for me to try and portray what my encounters would have been if my skin had a darker hue.
What I can do is read books and articles and loom at studies. (And this can be tricky because, well, not everything out there is well meaning.) I can imagine what it means to grow up as someone not white.
And here is a simple truth. My life is easier because I am white. Not that everything has been easy, not that me and my family haven’t worked hard for what we have. We have.
Three generations ago we were moonshiners a and sharecroppers. We are a testament to the American Dream. But I believe it is safe to say that our path would have been more difficult if we were black.
How can I know that and refuse to see that a different skin color from my own can result in harsher treatment from those in power? I’ve seen firsthand how those held in less esteem are treated differently, roughly.
All lives matter. That should be a given, but it isn’t. Some believe that due to my skin I deserve the benefit of the doubt, that I deserve better, softer treatment. That my life matters more. That is why it is important to speak out and say that Black Lives Matter.
The police officers that I have been friends with are intelligent enough to know that supporting Black Lives Matter does not mean that police lives matter less. I don’t believe that.
We can believe two things at the same time, especially since they don’t contradict. Violence against police should not be considered acceptable. Believe that. But also look at the history and see that there is a legacy of violence and different standards against people of color and acknowledge that it needs to stop.