Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Paralysis

I had big plans this morning to finish painting our great room while the youngest napped. To finally be done with all our big indoor projects and be able to concentrate on the outdoors now that the weather is slightly cooler than hell.

Instead, I can't move. I'm just sitting here, sad, frustrated, angry, paralyzed.

A little over a year ago, my car broke down. It was at a busy intersection. My infant was in the back seat, not napping because apparently none of my children got the genetic memo that cars are restful to infants. I got out of my car and walked to the side of the road. At some point in my life, I remember being told not to stay in a car on the side of the road in case someone plowed into you. Probably there is a hole in that argument somewhere, but I was more concerned with the screaming infant than rational thought.

Shortly after that, a police car pulled past and then pulled over in front of my car. The officer got out, approached me confidently and kindly and said he had received a report of a woman with a car broken down and wanted to make sure everything was ok.

Was everything ok?

Welp, yes, it was. Just a popped tire.

But would it have been ok if I was a black man standing on the side of the road next to my vehicle? Would that officer have exited his vehicle calmly and confidently, weapon holstered?

Or would I have been another Terence Crutcher? An innocent man, a father, a college student whose car got stuck in the middle of the road and who happened to be in the way of some officers heading to a different call. And would they have gotten out of their cars and pointed their weapons at me? And would I have thought rationally? Would I have run? Would I have stayed still? Would I have put my hands in the air?

What would I have done if my car broke down and I was black?

Friends, I am seeing justification up and down on facebook. I am hearing people say "we don't know what happened" or "we don't know what the suspect really said."

Suspect? Really? Was I a "suspect" when my car broke down? Did I look like a "bad dude"?

Nope.

Because I am a white woman.

No fewer than 15 other people stopped that day to see if I was ok. Some people brought me water. Some people asked if they could help with the tire or if I needed a lift.

I was showered with trust and generosity.

Terence was showered with bullets.

And now I, yet again, have to tell my white son that our conversations about the world are going to look a little different than what his brothers will have to hear. I'll have to tell him that he will likely be given the benefit of the doubt. That no one will look at him, dressed in blue jeans and a white t-shirt with a stalled vehicle, and assume he is a bad dude who is probably on drugs.

But they might look at his brothers that way. They might.

My middle child is big for his age. Well, huge, actually. He's muscular and loud and tall. He wears youth small clothes at the age of 2.5 and you can hear him coming from a mile away. And I know from research that he will be perceived as a threat from a much younger age than a big white kid. I know from research that he will be more likely to have the police called for a school infraction. I know from research that his black skin may invoke a feeling of fear in people who see him and don't know that he is sweet and funny and only 2.

So there are other things I know.

I know that he will not wear a hoodie when driving when he's a teenager.

I know that he will not probably call the police if his car breaks down.

I know that he will never play with toy guns.

I know he won't be able to drive slower than the speed limit on a dark road if he is having trouble seeing.

I know that we will have to teach him that very scary line of learning to respect authorities and also knowing that many authorities will not have his best interests at heart.

And you know what?

I know these things because I actually know black people. I have friends who have told me their stories. Who have shared their frustrations. Who have LIVED with these fears and this knowledge their whole lives. Who share about the microaggressions perpetrated on them on a daily basis. Who are tired and frustrated and just about out of hope in our country because black lives clearly do not matter. Who are actual people, not statistics or articles or stereotypes in hollywood.

Who have lived and breathed a culture of hatred toward them their whole lives.

I've only been thinking about it for a little over a decade. And I don't have to live it.

But my sons will.

Today I am sad. So sad. Aching for Terence's family. Aching for all the parents out there who don't know if their children will make it home from the park or the bus stop or the football game on Friday night. Aching for my friends who aren't sure whether it's worth it to drive anywhere anymore. For the ones who have lost loved ones and had guns pulled on them for watering their neighbors flowers. Who worry about coming home after dark to their apartment in case their neighbors call the police on a "suspicious black person."

Aching because too many people in our country are never given the benefit of the doubt. Too many peoples lives don't actually matter.

And so even though I am paralyzed and my wall is definitely not going to be painted today, I continue to write. I continue to shout Black Lives Matter from the top of my lungs. I continue to listen and learn and teach my sons.

I continue to hope that things can change even in the face of overwhelming sadness.

Because if I lose hope, I fear I'll stay paralyzed forever. And that, my friends, won't solve anything.

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