It is December and Christmas is in the air. It is supposed to be the happy, family oriented holiday time. For Christians it is also the journey to remember the birth of Jesus Christ and the promise of our eternal salvation through our belief in God and living the teachings of Christ. But this year, my heart is too heavy to feel anything more than sadness, shame and fear.
While the news and social media never lack a human interest story to stir the heart, challenge the humility or reinforce the activist instinct in me, I have been more sensitive to the racial animus in this nation since the election of President Obama and the kicks to my conscience just keep coming. To say that even being a Virginian who grew up with racism and the “South’s gonna rise again” mentality should have prepared me for what ‘came out of the woodwork’ might be accurate, but it did not. I was one of those foolish, foolish people who thought we were getting “past all that”. I have been wounded on a level a 56 year old woman should not feel over the racism inherent in so much of the complaint, lies and distortions of the Obama presidency that is just hard to reconcile and still believe people are decent.
And then comes Ferguson. The case of Officer Darren Wilson and the death of an unarmed suspect in a robbery was news but also and sadly, par for the course. Next comes the death of Tamir Rice, a 12-year old with a toy gun in a deserted park gunned down by police responding. And just this week, no indictment for the choke-hold, crushing death of Eric Garner in NYC over a misdemeanor non-violent alleged crime.
With this and ALL of the cases that are making the news, the common theme is police overreaction with disproportional response and as decent human beings we recoil. Yes, all of these events involved people breaking the law or behaving in a suspicious or easily misinterpreted manner, no need to deny that. But there are similar situations with white perpetrators that are handled very differently and with very different outcomes. As Leonard Pitts suggests, “two clicks” can help clarify the problem. Yes, the police see some of the worst mankind has to offer and yes, they are in a relatively hazardous profession but the key here is that it is supposed to be a profession.
A profession has standards, procedures, protocols and judgment. Is such a take-down warranted when a summons would have sufficed? Was tackling him necessary when a drawn taser might have changed the dynamic? Did they try to calm the situation? Did they even attempt to consider the consequences of so many tackling such an obese man (common sense says don’t…)? When you are tackled, it is also human nature to fight back.
The cops who literally rolled up on Tamir and shot him within less than 2 seconds, Darren Wilson’s dehumanizing, self-serving and frankly ludicrous version of events in Ferguson, and this case of death by cop are all examples of a profession that is not in control, not in compliance with humanity and not “serving” or “protecting”. The racial element cannot be ignored and the comments from their defenders only reinforce the racism and institutional deafness to it. Police are NOT to be judge, jury and executioner. That is not who we are.
It is not possible to read the comments of people who refuse to see the racist element, who defend the police no matter how outrageous, unprofessional and dangerous their behavior is, without realizing that we are still a nation determined to label “the other” and diminish their legitimacy and rights in every realm it is possible in. Even in sports, you are only as good as keeping your mouth shut and entertaining, show support for the “wrong” side and you are too dumb to be allowed to protest anything. The continued sharing of photo-shopped or mislabeled pictures that malign the black community, the white people who share the ‘black videos’ to bolster their clownish, ignorant and most important self-caricatures of themselves to prove they are ‘less than’ and then the black people who have turned on their own race by adding fuel to the fire of supporting the racism by agreeing with them as if that will make it better…it won’t. They need to realize the severity of this divide and I think maybe they have given up even trying to speak to something that is so prevalent and yet so denied that they have to feel like they are in a “Twilight Zone” episode.
I feel we have failed as a people, there is no superior race, there is no superior religion, there is no superior person and perhaps that inner knowledge, though denied, explains the visceral need some people have to label, blame and belittle rather than try to understand, empathize or bridge the divide. I know I get weary trying to help people see our role in the division.