I’m not exactly sure what this post is going to turn into. Maybe I’ll post it when I’m done and maybe I won’t. News of Alton Sterling’s death hit the news yesterday and post after post has shown up in my newsfeed, but I haven’t been able to watch the video. Not sure if I ever will. The videos from incidents in the last couple of years have done me in.
My background . . . I grew up in a diverse neighborhood. My family and social group were and are both quite diverse. I’m not trying to wear that as a badge, it’s just how things are and I wouldn’t change a thing. So, while I will never know exactly what it’s like to be any other race, I’ve witnessed prejudice and racism first hand and I’ve had numerous discussions with people I trust about issues that some might find hard to speak about face-to-face, especially if your social circle is fairly limited.
This might be a ludicrous way to explain it, but hear me out. Do you know someone who detests broccoli? Or spinach? Spinach is probably a more common offense because of the texture it takes on when cooked. The kind in a can is slimy. People who don’t like spinach often have an automatic reaction to it. Without even thinking, they see spinach or hear the word and they scrunch up their nose and say, “Ew! Gross!” People do the same thing with insects and certain animals. Fear, intimidation, anger, intense dislike, and hate often cause people to act irrationally even when there is no threat. When a racist person or someone who has a tendency to be prejudice encounters someone of another race, they react in such ways without even planning to do so. Racism is usually a learned trait. Sometimes it’s brought on my a negative experience. Regardless, it’s usually not too hard to detect. Racist people tend to have a hard time hiding their feelings.
Where am I going with all this? Not sure. All I know is that the stories about Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Sandra Bland made me ill. I’m someone who likes to have facts. Unfortunately, when the media gets ahold of these stories, you can’t believe anything you read. It’s impossible to decipher the truth even when the ‘official reports’ are released. Will the departments investigating these issues really be fair and truthful? How can they not be biased?
When bad things happen and it’s discussed online, people how to forget how to talk to one another. I know I have. Some people will back the police officers simply because they are wearing a uniform. Others will be against the police no matter what. But what I hate is when people try to justify something with another issue.
This stuff happens to white people too! Black people kill white people too! What about the black people who are killing their own? No one wants to talk about black on black crime. What about the lives of the officers? Blue lives matter too!
I don’t understand why people do this when something unjust is brought to light. This is simply a way to distract others when the person arguing has nothing valuable to add. Two wrongs don’t make a right. The sins of another aren’t greater than yours. They’re really not. Sin is sin to God. Why? Because at the end of the day, God is in control. You can’t kill someone if it’s not their time to die. But that doesn’t take away your blame if you commit the act. And duh! Of course their lives matter. All lives matter. And just because someone may have a past doesn’t mean their life matters less.
And you might not agree with this next point, but just do some digging. When African Americans commit crimes and are caught, they are way more likely to receive a harsher sentence than their white counterparts. Statistics about this have been published on so many websites including the Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, etc. Who do you consider credible? I don’t know if anyone is anymore. I just know what I’ve been witness to and it sure seems that way. Obviously, there are other agenda-related websites that will report the complete opposite, so pick your poison, I guess. And, of course, there is an exception to every single thing under the sun. So you can find some situation or story that will counter anything and everything I’ve said.
I remember being in a second-hand store one time when two Mexican guys came in. The clerk followed them around like they were gonna steal their fifty-cent cracked mugs right off the shelf. I remember the look on the clerk’s face as he watched the two men as they looked through the jeans. He looked like he hated Spinach.
Another time, my mom and I had lunch at a buffet restaurant here in town. I ate WAY too much. We went outside and I began pacing because my stomach hurt. Now, anyone who knows me knows I usually carry large size handbags. That day was no different. It didn’t have a long strap but I still tried to sling it over my shoulder while I paced because I was too miserable to try and carry it. Now here’s what happened next. An older black gentleman headed toward the entrance. I didn’t even see him. Wasn’t paying attention to anything but my own misery and pain. Apparently, right as he walked by me, I adjusted my purse. It had tried to slip off my shoulder like a million times already and I’d pushed it back up that many times. But to him, it appeared that I was securing my bag. At this point, I’m still oblivious.
Suddenly, I hear someone yell, “I don’t want your bag, b@#$%.”
Boop boop de doop.
Yep! I turn my head and see he is just glarin’ at me as he walks in. I look at my mom and say, “Was he talking to me?” She looks at me wide-eyed and nods. Then my Oh No He Di’ent attitude kicks in and I follow him right into the restaurant. I should stop here but it’s only fair that I tell you about my bad self since I already told on him. I follow him right up to the register (It’s a buffet so you pay first) and I yelled in his ear, “You don’t know me!” Brilliant, right? Truly, I was highly offended that he suggested I thought he was going to steal my purse because he was black. I’m surprised he stayed there to eat because I had everybody in the place looking at us. I said other things but I’m not going in to all that. Finally, I took my loud mouth outside and went home.
As soon as I got in the door, I had to go tell my honey-bunny what happened. While I am giving a detailed account, I burst into tears. That dude had totally hurt my feelings and instead of handling myself with dignity and giving him grace for his misunderstanding, I blew the opportunity to have a real conversation with him and instead, acted like a complete fool.
So what I do next? I call the restaurant and ask them to give him the phone. Bless their heart, they tried. He wouldn’t take it. Can you blame him? So I asked them to tell him I’m sorry. I heard them while they relayed the message and he told them, “Tell her don’t worry about it.” The only thing I hated about that is that he might have thought I was apologizing for the purse thing when I was apologizing for acting like a baboon. Here’s what I learned. That man reacted the way he did because of some previous experiences he’s had in his life. When he saw me adjust my purse, he saw Spinach and it caused an automatic reaction.
I’ve decided I’m not going to watch Alton’s video though I’ve read several accounts of what happened. I’m not a cop lover or a cop hater. I’m a people lover who tries not to hate anyone because I know that God loves them. He loves the rapists, murders, thieves, and the racist. I will say some of the previous stories in the media regarding abuse of authority nearly turned me into a hater at one point. The media can twist up our guts if we let them. Don’t ever give it that kind of power in your life. Lasso your thoughts. Think things through. Try to look at all scenarios from all sides. The media is TOXIC. But Alton’s story, once again, makes me ill. If there’s any truth in what I’m reading, the officers involved had no cause to pull the trigger. There is one particular officer I follow on Facebook. I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing him. He’s a super guy. I try to read the things he writes about his work experiences to remind me how many good cops and good people there are out there. When I heard about Alton, I ran to this officer’s page. It helped, but not as much as I would have liked. It’s messed up that a good guy like him is left in a position to answer for such an ugly act. My heart goes out to all who knew and loved Alton. I know I don’t have all the facts and I know it sounds like I made up my mind about what I think happened. I can’t help it.
Police officers put their lives in danger every time they put their uniform on. BUT. They have also willingly accepted a role that puts them in a position of power and in danger. I do believe it’s abused more often that we know by a select group that should have never been given the opportunity. I wonder how often those same people, same law enforcement officers have shown signs of their instability that were ignored by their peers. Their acts will be the cause of more hurt and harm to others as the public grows weary.
Have you ever listened when someone says the word ‘criminal.’ They nearly spit the word out. You can tell they don’t like Spinach. In Alton’s case, the first thing that some of the sources have done is start looking for a criminal history. I get why the police might do that if they’re investigating someone. I get why they would draw their weapons if they see he has a gun. I don’t get why they would shoot him when it’s not in his hands. Not pointed at them. I know sometimes people who are scared make rash decisions, but too often we’re seeing people, in the position of authority, not value life. This isn’t a new problem, but technology allows us to see what once was hidden. I’m grateful for the officers I see who talk to the youth, play ball with them, get to know them by their first name, and understand they can set an example that will stick with these kids for life. They can do the same for adults. As grown as we think we are, we will always be able to learn and improve as long as we’re willing.
Go through life giving people the benefit of the doubt. Know they can change for the better at any time. Never look down your nose. Don’t let what happened to Alton cause you to sneer at every officer you pass. They are just people and most of them are doing the best job they can. Let God’s love course through your veins and move through every part of your body. When there is a disruption in the God-flow, snatch it back as quick as you can. I also know I’ve sounded a bit contradictory on some of the things I said. What can I say? I’m human and I have feelings. But, I can’t wait for the day for God to shatter the biases and lay them all to rest. Even mine.