Today I’m taking a break from what feels like the frivolity of yarn and musings of motherhood to delve into what’s going on in our country. I am embarrassed that it has taken me this long to say something, and yet I am also hesitant because it is not necessarily my voice you need to hear.
After the killings in Orlando in June, I talked with the kids about what had happened – that a bad man hurt a lot of people and that we needed to pray for the hurt, the dead, the families, and the friends. But I couldn’t get myself to say why that bad man hurt and killed those people. How can you tell children that someone was hurt or killed because of who they love?
I have lesbian, and gay, and transgendered friends. I don’t talk about it much because in West Michigan we are taught to be nice and sometimes that means being hush-hush about topics deemed controversial. Well not today. Today I proudly say to my LGTBQ friends and the community at large: you are loved and accepted. I’m certain I will have friends and family alike that will shake their heads at this, but this is not a post for them. This is for those who need to hear that they are loved because of who they love, not in spite.
Fast forward less than four weeks… I thought that the shooting in Orlando was bad enough, but then more killings in Louisiana and Minnesota of two black men, then shortly thereafter added five police officers who were killed by a sniper at a peaceful protest. My heart is aching from afar with all this death.
Now what do I tell my children? That men were killed because of the color of their skin? Do I dumb it down with a box of crayons to say that this color could get you killed, but this one should keep you relatively safe?
I don’t wish to debate #blacklivesmatter vs. #bluelivesmatter vs. #alllivesmatter. President Obama put it best in a recent address he gave in response to the two black men that were killed:
According to various studies — not just one, but a wide range of studies that have been carried out over a number of years — African Americans are 30 percent more likely than whites to be pulled over. After being pulled over, African Americans and Hispanics are three times more likely to be searched. Last year, African Americans were shot by police at more than twice the rate of whites. African Americans are arrested at twice the rate of whites. African American defendants are 75 percent more likely to be charged with offenses carrying mandatory minimums. They receive sentences that are almost 10 percent longer than comparable whites arrested for the same crime.
So that if you add it all up, the African American and Hispanic population, who make up only 30 percent of the general population, make up more than half of the incarcerated population.
Now, these are facts. And when incidents like this occur, there’s a big chunk of our fellow citizenry that feels as if because of the color of their skin, they are not being treated the same. And that hurts. And that should trouble all of us. This is not just a black issue. It’s not just a Hispanic issue. This is an American issue that we should all care about. All fair-minded people should be concerned.
…If communities are mistrustful of the police, that makes those law enforcement officers who are doing a great job and are doing the right thing, it makes their lives harder. So when people say “Black Lives Matter,” that doesn’t mean blue lives don’t matter; it just means all lives matter, but right now the big concern is the fact that the data shows black folks are more vulnerable to these kinds of incidents.
-President Barak Obama, “We Are Better Than This” Email released by the White House, July 7, 2016. Full video here.
With those despairing facts in mind, let me be blunt: I am white. My husband is white. Our children are white. We are therefore privileged, and our inaction is contributing to the problem.
To my black and people of color friends, and to those of our nation: I am sorry.
As I have said, it is not my voice you need to hear. But I still need to say that no matter who you love, or the color of your God-given skin, you should be treated as equals and should not fear for your safety or your life. I am listening. I am joining the cause by being active.
I’m starting by reading and educating myself, and though it sounds like a small way to start, it is still taking action. I’ve created a reading list of sorts by adding articles to a pin board. If you have another way to organize and nourish this process, I am all ears. Please comment below with any articles, groups, ways to talk to children, or other initiatives. This is only the beginning.
Let’s fix this together,