Thursday, July 7, 2016

Racism Unmasked

I am one of the privileged class in America; I am white. I have never experienced being followed when I go into a store.  I have never feared being shot if stopped by a policeman.  I can't even begin to imagine what any of that is like.  As a mother, I never had to worry about my son ending up dead in a traffic stop, shot by a policeman.

Throughout the South during most of the twentieth century, lynchings of black men were a common practice.  The name Emmett Till readily comes to mind.  He was a 14 year-old Chicago boy lynched in Mississippi in 1955, reportedly for whistling at a white woman.  After being beaten, shot, and having an eye gouged out, his body was tossed in a river.  In order to show what had been done to her son, his mother had an open casket at his funeral.....for all the world to see.

Fast forward to the 21st century:  South Carolina.....Maryland....Louisiana....Minnesota

Walter Scott.....Freddie Gray......Alton Sterling.....Philando Castile.....

all killed by policemen.  Walter Scott was shot in the back multiple times...as he was running away. Freddie Gray was left paralyzed after a ride in a police van and eventually died.  Alton Sterling was tackled to the ground by two policemen, one of whom shot him repeatedly in the chest and back.   Philando Castile was reportedly getting his ID out at a traffic stop when a policeman pumped him with bullets.

America has changed little since the Civil Rights Movement of the '60s.  Yes, we have African-American governors, Congressmen, and President.  Yet, what the election of the first African-American President has done is expose the hidden racism that many thought we as a nation had conquered.  There it is, revealed in the fear, the abject fear, that many white officers have of black males.  That is the heart of it:  fear, fear of a group of people they can not relate to, don't know. Fear born of preconceived ideas.  Many police organizations do a fabulous job integrating into the communities they serve, but there are those who don't.  Until local police organizations honestly examine their culture, the culture of rallying around the police brotherhood at all costs, this slaughter will continue. Police are supposed to serve the community.  In order to serve, they must have relationships with the people in the community. It takes work to build that trust and those relationships....but it is vital.  Today, a Congressman asked FBI Director Comey to do something.  I pray he does.  This has got to stop.

Where does this racism come from?  It is taught; no one is born a racist.  It can be taught at home, by peers, and even by politicians.  Mainly, it is born of fear--fear of people/ethnic groups/religious groups one doesn't know....and doesn't want to know.  

Look at this precious little boy.  I'll call him "I."  "I" is the son of a former student of mine.  She has to raise him to fear police officers.  Maybe "fear" is the wrong word, but he has to be cautious........cautious simply because of the color of his skin.  The Walter Scotts, Freddy Grays, Alton Sterlings, Philando Castiles....they are all sons of all black mothers.  They started out just like little "I" here.

Don't be part of the problem.  All the little "I's" deserve to grow up without fearing law enforcement.