Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Too Much

Today, I woke up to more bad news. More incidences of violence by the police, towards a specific group of people. An unarmed man was shot on the freeway, surrounded by 4 police officers, none of whom gave him any medical aid for MINUTES after. They said they were going to taser him, and they shot him instead.

This happened on Friday. Two days before that cops shot a 13-year-old boy in Columbus. A kid. It's not the first time a minor has been a victim of this, cops shooting someone before they have had any time to make an assessment of the situation. I've worked with middle schoolers before. They can be big, but they are very clearly still children. Since when did it become to use deadly force in a split second against a child?

Put that against the backdrop of the protests that have swept through the sports world. My world in particular via Megan Rapinoe. The ones that want to bring people's attention to this very same violence. Rapinoe knelt for the National Anthem in Columbus, on Thursday, the day after this 13-year-old was killed. Guess what people got mad about? Not the life that was lost.

It's too much.

I respect the flag. I love this country. I absolutely honor the sacrifice members of the military have made to preserve my rights and freedoms. I respect and honor the members of the police force who have kept me safe my whole life. I know there are people who go out every day to put their life on the line to preserve my ability to live life the way I choose. I am not here to say that what they do is not worth it, that fighting for this country is not worth it, that protecting and serving is not worth it.

But when you are shooting 13-year-olds, unarmed men, choking people who are yelling, "I can't breathe!", and shooting a guy at a traffic stop with his girlfriend and child in the car watching, shooting mentally ill people on the street... At what point do we stop considering that protecting and serving? At what point does it become too much?

When are we going to realize that it's not the "Land of the free, and the home of the brave" if there are millions of black people who walk around scared that any misstep or imagined aggression could get them shot? Are they actually free? Are the police officers who shoot a 13-year-old boy who is running away from them "brave"? Can I say the Pledge of Allegiance in good conscience right now, when "liberty and justice for all" is not being upheld by the people are supposed to uphold justice? When the people who are killing are not being held accountable for the injustice they are perpetuating (this article has a list of killings and what happened to the officers)? 

I admit, it took a long time to reach me. I was stuck up here in my bubble of privilege, knowing that police officers would keep me safe, because I am inherently non-threatening to them physically. I heard the reports, I got sad about it for a little bit, and then I went on with my life.

I don't know if I can do that now. It's too much. 

I've worked with kids who are black, boys who had some behavioral issues. I worked with them, fought for (and sometimes with) them, protected them when other people wanted to use them as scapegoats. In my neck of the woods, they're fighting against a true white-majority, who teach their kids that the "n" word is a joke, that racism doesn't exist, and by doing so, perpetuate the cycle. I loved these boys, two in particular. They were the hardest to leave when I had to step away. 

But now every time I see the news about black men and boys being shot, I see their faces. I see them, with their issues, but with hearts of gold, trying so hard to be the good kids they want to be. I get scared for them. Because I know now that the possibility is that they will be those faces on the news reports someday, if things don't change. 

It's too much.

Why is it that the majority of my news feed since Kapernick started protesting these heinous injustices has been about how he hates America? No, he doesn't. He wants America to be better. When Megan Rapinoe knelt in a National Team uniform, representing the USA, why did white Americans flip out? Why could no one in the broadcasts actually say the words "racial injustices", and instead just talked about "the issues"? Why were there more calls for her to step down from the team, instead of talking about the racial injustices that are CONSISTENTLY resulting in black men and women being shot and made to feel afraid every day?

It's too much.

See, I don't think they actually hate this country. I think they love it, and would like it to be better. I think they respect very much the men and women who gave them the freedom to peacefully protest against the system that has perpetuated these terrible acts. I think so, because that's where I am. I love this country. I want very much for it to be the land of the free, and the home of the brave. I want to believe in the standard of liberty and justice for all, of the ideal One Nation, United. 

We are not there, though. And if you believe for one second that this is something that will not affect you, no matter what color your skin, or where you were raised, then you are wrong. This is not something that's going away. So how about instead of getting outraged, you sit and listen to the people who have been dealing with this every day of their lives? Take their suggestions about what to do to help. Stop trying to pretend it doesn't exist.

That's what I'm going to do. Because this is too much.