I apologize for my first post in so long not being about a book. I’m going to have hip surgery and I’ve been swimming more than reading because sitting for long periods is uncomfortable, but that’s not what I’ve logged in to say.
I sat down at my desk and cried for my country today. Not any one person, but all of us. I’m mostly a writer of short stories who hopes I’ll finish the book I’m working on eventually, but today I feel obligated to write about something real.
I’m no one special. I’m just an American that is crying for the people in her country. I’m not famous. I’m not influential, but I can’t be quiet any longer.
People are dying in America because of racism, fear, intolerance and hatred and it has to end.
After waiting tables at a restaurant where the local police ate many, many years ago, I have a healthy fear of police and try to avoid them if at all possible. I don’t know if all police are like the ones who ate at our restaurant, but the stories they joked around and told one another about how they treated people were enough to make me nauseous. They didn’t even think about discussing such things in front of the teenage girl pouring their coffee every morning. I didn’t do or say anything.
It’s 30 years later and I’ve seen and heard so much intolerance that I feel obligated to stand up and say that it has to end. I’ve never understood racism. As a child I lived in West Virginia. I’m not saying that racism didn’t exist, but as a small child my experience with it was limited to telling a family relative that I loved very much that he couldn’t call black people what he had because it was mean. Kindergartener’s aren’t known for tact.
I moved to Florida when I was in high school. That was the first time I really saw racism. I was shocked, but I was also fifteen and unsure what to do other than scream back at the idiots who screamed racial slurs at my friends.
I guess I officially encountered racism personally because when I was in high school a couple of different black people called me a cracker. For what reason, I’m still not sure as it was one of those walking by things. I was naive and it was years before I found out what it meant because I was afraid to ask at that age, but this isn’t about my experience.
This is about the fact that as a white woman in America I don’t know what it’s like to really suffer from racism. No one denies me a job because someone once called me a cracker. I see it, but I don’t experience it. I don’t feel it so I know that my understanding of it is limited. I don’t fear that the police will pull me over and shoot me if I have a tail light out. In fact a very nice policeman was the one that told me that if I was going to have a gun in the car that the trunk was the place for it with regards to moving from house to house, etc. I know some of the reasons for racism, but I in no way have the answer.
I’m sure there are many, but I feel that two of the main reasons for racism and intolerance of really anyone who is different are ignorance and irrational fear. I believe that kind of ignorance and irrational fear is because people don’t get to know people of other cultures and skin colors. They don’t make the effort. It’s their own fault that they haven’t opened their eyes and hearts to the many wonderful people of different cultures that are out there.
I have friends of all ethnicities, I live in a predominantly black area and I’ve worked with people from all over the world. I listen to what they say. I hear the news they discuss and the things they get riled up about that they read on Facebook. I’m not an expert, but as a writer I’m interested in all people.
The most important things I’ve learned that the majority of people share despite their background are the desire for freedom, the willingness to help others during a disaster, the desire to keep those they love safe, fed, clothed, happy, etc., and the desire to make their own way. As human beings we all basically want the same things. We have the technology to go into space, but we can’t come up with a solution for getting along on the planet we have.
There are so many things I don’t know or understand. I don’t understand why the land of the free and the home of the brave has more people in jail per capita than the rest of the world.I don’t understand why a police officer would shoot into a car with a 4-year-old in the back at a routine traffic stop. I don’t understand why snipers shot the police protecting the people protesting against tragedy in our country.
Wide-sweeping generalizations cannot answer these questions. I don’t know what went through the police officer’s head and I’ve only seen the video of Philando Castile after he’d been shot as he lay dying in the front seat with the police officer still holding his gun in the window and screaming at an obviously unresponsive man instead of getting him medical assistance.
I don’t know what happened before that, but I do know that I probably would not have been capable of responding in the calm manner that his fiancée did as the police officer continued to scream at her after shooting her boyfriend. I know this was because she feared for her life and the life of her child. I’ve never experienced that and it is my earnest hope I never have to, but it appalls me. I know that man should never have been given a badge and a gun, but I don’t have the answer to the systemic failure of law enforcement in America for those of color that allowed him to be hired.
I study people for characters and a lot of what I’ve found saddens me more than I can express. A lot gives me hope. I have good friends that I love who are black, gay, trans, Indian, white, yellow and so on. I fear for some of them. I see what they deal with, but I don’t know what to do other than scream to the world that this has to end.
All police are not bad. There are YouTube videos of police officers so furious over the shootings of black men in America by their fellow police officers that they’re crying as they tell those other officers to take off the badge. So I know some of them want to help.
Then there’s the police officer that got canned because he said on Facebook that he would have shot the man five times instead of four. How do you combat that kind of hatred? How do you identify the people out in the world who feel like that? I don’t mean the ones that announce it, but the ones who don’t. The ones who hide in plain sight. The ones that might be your friends at work, church, school or wherever that you’ve never known that about.
People of every background love fiercely and loyally. They love their friends and family even when they fail or do something wrong. I know that’s how I love my family and friends, even when we disagree. We all want to protect those we love. We have to start talking to one another. I don’t just mean the separate groups, though that needs to happen as well.
If you’re white and you oppose racism then you have to stand up and talk to other white people about it. It can’t be ignored any longer.
If you’re a police officer who believes in the integrity of your oath to protect and serve, you need to stand up and speak out against officers that bring shame to that oath.
If you’re a straight person who defends the rights of LGBT people to be happy like you have the right to be, you have to stand up to the other straight people who don’t.
If you’re a person who support a woman’s right to not have her body controlled by the government then you need to stand up and defend those rights to those who are fighting against women’s rights.
We can’t continue to ignore the occasional racist or sexist comment from that one person in our group.
We can’t ignore it when the male boss harasses a woman at work and she gets fired for it.
We can’t ignore it when the female boss harasses a man at work and he gets fired for it.
We can’t ignore the person who insults the gay people at work and then watch the gay person reprimanded for some made up reason.
We can’t ignore the person at work who mutters the racial slur under their breath as someone they’re prejudiced against walks down the hall.
We have to say something. If we want to solve this problem we have to drive it out, kicking and screaming.
We have to call out and ostracize those who we know to be racist and intolerant. They have to know that it will not be accepted and that there are consequences such as being fired and left out of society. We cannot continue to accept and sweep racism and intolerance under the rug.
Most importantly, we need to quit making excuses for those who are racist and intolerant. No one has the right to keep others from living their lives without fear and succeeding in this country. Irrational hate is a reality, but not an excuse.
I apologize for my lack of eloquence, but I felt I had to say something. As a writer all I know to do is write about it. To share the feelings of an American who truly is saddened and shamed by what is happening here. To share the feelings of someone who sat and cried today for her country.
I’ve seen a lot of things in my life that I didn’t say anything about. That time has come to an end. There’s a Lawrence Kasdan quote from Silverado, “The world is what you make of it, friend. If it doesn’t fit you make alterations.” That might sound a little cheesy in the vein of this discussion, but I believe that. The world is exactly what we make it. Today I’m trying to make it a better place. I’m hoping others will do the same. We could use some alterations.