I honestly do not know what to do. I do not know how to respond or how to help. Ever since September 16th these two thoughts tumble with a low murmur through my brain. After every new trending hashtag of another life taken flashes for a week or two on my social media, I am overcome. Overcome with outrage and questions. Overcome with grief and pushed to my knees to pray for all parties. But this time, this time it happened in my city. Again.
This time, watching the video I saw a street I drive up and down. I saw where the road dips and I know I’ve gotten some slight air because I always speed at that spot. This time, I had to answer second grade questions about police brutality. This time, I listened to fathers and mothers of my students as they explained that their seven-year-old sons may ask me things after they talked about how to act if the police ever stop them. Seven. Think about that. And that, that is a valid and real conversation parents of color have with their precious children. This time I know teachers of the children who lost their father. I know friends directly attached to the hashtag celebrities, politicians and activists tweeted. I know community members who work with tireless effort to bring light to such a dark, deep-rooted issue. This time I realized my silence has only perpetuated a problem for far too long.
Terrence Crutcher was not the first and sadly will not be the last man killed with unnecessary force by police. I hope and pray it ends, but until it does I choose to use my voice. My small action feels delayed and feeble, but it is a start. It took me longer than it should, but now I start. To my friends and family who squirm in your seat as you read this, sorry I’m not actually sorry. It is uncomfortable. It is hard. It is not fun. But if we do not have this conversation, we cannot grow past this.
What happened to Mr. Crutcher on the road I know so well directly correlates to a lack of understanding of biases. We all have biases. All. Of. Us. We always will. It is human nature. Though we will never fully get rid of all of our biases, we must begin to acknowledge them. We must begin to sort through them and not let our biases blindly lead and dictate our actions and reactions.
It is hard to admit you posses privilege simply because you are white. Acknowledging and recognizing white privilege means sorting through the uncomfortable and difficult range of emotions. It takes time, self-reflection and an open mind. Aka, me. I’m white. My life posses a lot of privilege. It’s hard to admit that. But if I never acknowledge it, I can never move past it.
This week my second graders read about different religions and beliefs from around the world. It confused so many of them! They couldn’t grasp why people in India or China would believe what they do. When my second graders could not understand, they began to almost mock or joke about these other religions that seemed so different and foreign from theirs. Not cool, second graders. I squashed their mocking with a big dramatic discussion only to realize, we do this as adults. We act like second graders when do not understand other people and their experiences.
Wanting to drive home my point, we had a huge discussion. In the moment, I realized not only second graders, but all of us truly fear what we can’t understand or haven’t experienced. It feels like when you’re lying in bed and the darkness encompasses you. Suddenly, you hear a sound. In a moment of panic you freeze. Without being able to see, your imagination turns the small sound into a rabid monster or a violent scene from Criminal Minds. The only way to shut down the spiral – turn on the lights. If we do not turn on the lights and open our minds to begin to understand others’ experiences, realities or beliefs, we will continue to sit in the dark petrified. We will react because we live in fear. We need to know how others are different than us. We need to ask questions. We need to listen. And we need to speak.
A very wise lady once told me her mother always says, “you don’t plant trees, you plant seeds.” As you read this, I pray seeds of understanding take root in all of our hearts. I pray we begin to understand and work through our own personal biases. I pray we act and speak truth boldly to those we encounter. I pray for my city and our country. May we work together to forge a place where your car stalling, walking home, wearing a hoodie, catching a train with your friends and the countless other actions I take for granted each day do not result in death.