I am a white woman who lives and works in a world that is integrated. I talk to black people of all ages every day. I talk to white people of all ages every day. Other ethnicities cross my path every day. In my former career I worked at a company that I was proud to tell you had eight different countries and almost every ethnicity represented. I see and hear all sides of most issues almost every day.
One would have to be an ostrich to not notice that racial equality in this country is a problem. It seems like almost every day there is a new issue involving race. Despite my best efforts to see all of this upheaval from a completely unbiased point of view, that’s not humanly possible. I bring my own experiences to every conversation. So does everyone else. I can do my best to try to empathize with your experience, but I cannot say I understand if I have not had your journey.
As a woman who worked in corporate America, I do understand discrimination. I have, unfortunately, experienced it too many times in too many ways. I’ve had my ideas in meetings ignored only for a man to bring up the same idea five minutes later and be applauded for his brilliance. I spent a number of years in my career doing human resources and saw women consistently being paid less than a male peer doing equal work. I have seen women with advanced degrees doing work that applies to that degree still being expected to plan the parties, order supplies and generally “mother” the men they work with. I have lived most of my life with discrimination.
That being said, I have never had someone cross the street I am walking down because they are afraid of me. I have never had a policeman or woman stop me for the crime of “driving while black.” I can walk into a store without having the salespeople assume I am going to try to shoplift. I do not know how it feels to be the mother of a black male and have my heart clutch every time they leave the house because I don’t know what hostility they will face while they are out in the world, away from my maternal protection. I know that white males are arrested without cause and falsely incarcerated, but nowhere near as often as black males.
I have been in small groups of white people discussing the legal situations that are in the news currently. I have heard the argument that instead of focusing on the white on black violence the black community needs to look at the frequency of black on black violence. I have heard them try to justify or explain or understand the circumstances that have led to violent incidents that are making the headlines with chilling frequency. I am sorry to say I have also been exposed to the prejudiced and bigoted opinions of people I have no respect or time for.
All too often I have walked up on a group of black people discussing the current events. There is always a pause when I approach. Sometimes that pause is followed by an obvious shift in the conversation, sometimes I am included in the conversation and am able to hear the points of view that are being discussed. There is justifiable anger and confusion in those conversations.
One of the best articles I’ve read that expresses what I’ve been hearing can be found in Alexandria Neason’s article “We Say That #BlackLivesMatter — Now It’s Time To Prove It” on Mic. Com. Please follow the link below to read the article in full: http://mic.com/articles/105700/do-black-lives-matter-it-s-time-for-america-to-prove-it?utm_source=Mic+Check&utm_campaign=a4dcec69da-Mic_Report_12_5_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_51f2320b33-a4dcec69da-285469477&mc_cid=a4dcec69da&mc_eid=9554a8124f
As the ex-wife of a former policeman, I also have to share what I observed when I lived in that world. A good man or woman would join the force with high expectations of helping their fellow man. Time after time I saw these same men and women become bitter and cynical after spending the majority of their time with people when they were at their worst. I watched and heard them become more and more negative in their outlook on people the longer they were on the force. The “us” against “them” mentality was prevalent. Just like it’s hard on the men of color who never know what is going to happen when they leave their home, it’s hard on the policemen and women to know that every time they go to work someone may be taking a shot at them. The fear and machismo are intermingled equally.
I have heard the phrase “Black Lives Matter.” Personally, I believe “Equality Matters,” is a better way of putting it. I also have heard “All Lives Matter,” along with the comments from the black community that they feel that phrase diminishes the situation we have in the United States right now. Given the frequency of cases of white police officers (and in the case of Trayvon Martin, neighborhood watch enforcers,) using excessive and/or deadly force against young black males the problem that needs to be addressed currently is the unjust justice system we are currently operating under.
After the lack of an indictment in the Eric Garner case, I do not see how anyone with a functioning brain cell could deny that we need to address the fact that when police officers in this country use excessive or deadly force justice is not being done.
“When prosecutors are tasked with investigating and charging police officers, they’re being asked to punish members of an organization who are tightly intertwined with their own operations — a big obstacle to ensuring that justice is done.” – “The Eric Garner Case Exposes a Huge Problem With How We Prosecute Police Officers” By Gregory Krieg, Mic.com
Not a single person I have spoken to has felt that things are fine the way they are. I am encouraged that one of the consistent things I have heard from every person of every color is an obvious desire to find a solution. I have no answers, but I wish I did. If you have a viable, helpful answer, let me know. I’ll be happy to write letters, march or do whatever helps us come to a peaceful solution to this heartbreaking disconnect between the races.
Photo credit: www.kansascity.com