This past week has been a challenging one in the media. It started with two men being shot by police officers, both men black, and in different cities. The next day we saw five police officers gunned down by what we now know was a lone shooter in Dallas, while protecting protestors at a Black Lives Matter protest. Social media has changed our world, that’s for sure. In past years, none of this would have played out publicly as it has. It’s been a heavy topic at our house this week, and one that I am ready to put some thoughts to paper about.
First, I don’t believe we know the full story on the first two killings. There are still investigations being done and facts to come out. Every time I turn on Facebook, there’s another new claim of truth, and yet that’s all it is, a claim. So, I’m not going to address facts because frankly we just don’t know them. What I will saw is that I feel for any family who has lost someone. And if these police officers are found to have done this, they do deserve to be punished, to the full extent of the law.
What we do know about Dallas is that five police officers were gunned down in cold blood. And they were killed at a time when they were rushing ahead toward the shots to protect others. My heart breaks for them and for their families. Two wrongs never make a right and these families did not deserve this. These men were simply doing their job.
I don’t believe all police officers are bad, any more than I believe all black men are “thugs.” This, for me, isn’t about labels. But let’s talk about what it is about.
In 2009, my husband and I moved back here from Barbados. We live in a relatively small down of around 100,000 people. Henderson is perhaps the only tall black man with dreadlocks in our town. He is, so to speak, an anomaly in town. We have spent many hours this week talking about all of the things that have happened. So today I want to share some of that with you, perhaps just to give some insight.
It’s not uncommon for people to look, sometimes stare, and sometimes even move away when they see my husband. He tells me of being in the grocery store and seeing women grab their purse as he approaches the same spot in the aisle of the store. And yes, he feels very judged, unfairly so. I have also shared with him how years ago in a self defense class that’s exactly what we were taught to do, always be sure you have a strong hold on your purse because you just never know. It’s sad, and yet it’s a reality of the world we live in.
In Barbados, people are friendly. They speak when they see you on the street. In fact, it’s not unlikely that if a child doesn’t speak to you, their parents will hear about it and they will be in trouble when they get home that day. Things always start with a greeting of “good morning” or “good afternoon.” If you call my house and my husband answers, you will never hear a simple “hello.” It will always be a “hello, good morning” or “Hello, good evening” depending on the time of day. It is, simply, the manners instilled in him as a child by his grandmother.
A couple of years ago, we had an incident at our home where a man was attempting to run from the police. They found him, parked right next to our house on Thanksgiving morning. I recall being in the back of the house getting ready. We heard a loud crash, then I heard my brother head out the front door and yell. I came to see what was going on. When I opened the front door, here’s what I saw: My brother sitting in a lawn chair on the porch, his hands in the air, looking straight ahead, and out of the corner of my eye I could see my husband standing on the porch, also with his hands up. My brother wouldn’t even look at me, just said “do NOT come out here, close the door.” I promptly shut the door. I think it took about 10-15 seconds before my brain said oh heck no, if their hands are up someone is out there with a gun and those are my guys. Back I went to open the door. This time, my brother, still never looking at me, yelled “CLOSE THE DOOR AND DO NOT COME OUT HERE.” On looking out the front window of our house, I saw that there was an SUV turned on its top in the street across from our house. Only after things settled would I learn that the man the police were looking for had rammed two police cars, ran up into our driveway, barely missed hitting our car, and hitting our landlord’s car, before he flipped his own vehicle. The cops came at him, guns drawn. So picture that. They have no idea what’s next, so they have their guns drawn on that vehicle, which had just crashed. Then my guys walk out, my brother yells “what the H***” and all they hear is there’s a noise behind them. You got it. They turned, guns drawn, right to our porch. Scary indeed. Of course, once they figured out what had happened, checked IDs, and one of the officers told his coworkers that he actually knew my husband, it was all good. But picture it. My brother is a white guy, my husband is a black man with dreadlocks, then we have our landlord there and he’s from Saudi. What a trio that made. Racial profiling? Nope, not at all. But I’m sure had the media been there that day, they could have made it to be so. By the end of the morning, the officers had even apologized to me for scaring me like they did. Turns out that guy used to live at our address, so they had no idea who might be in that house now.
Now on to today. My husband stands out in our town. There just aren’t very many, if any, tall black men with dreadlocks here. Heck, there isn’t even anywhere in our town where he can have his hair done because nobody knows how. His comment to me was that no, he’s not afraid of the police, he does believe some police can be bad, and yet, he also knows that it’s all about respect if you’re stopped. Plain and simple. Sadly because of all of the press, he also wonders sometimes if he could end up being shot if he’s ever stopped for something. That, frankly, makes me sad. It is not what I hoped for him when we moved back here.
Racism is a scary and sad thing. It’s not just about white folks being racist to blacks, either. It covers so much more. There have been times when I see a black woman looking at us out in public with a look of almost disdain. I get it. I’ve been told why would this black man prefer to be with a white woman. My answer is always the same: We never saw color, we just fell in love. For most people, I think it is that simple.
It is my prayer that our country will just stop, take a deep breath, and remember, it really is that simple. If we spent more time locking arms together and caring about each other, there would be no need for all of this. Children aren’t born with thoughts of races, just watch them play sometime. It’s something we are taught, it’s a learned behavior. And things that are learned can be unlearned. It’s time for some unlearning and remembering we don’t have to see color, we just have to love.