It started on my way to the Potluck for Peace hosted by the local YWCA.
Just around the corner from my house, I passed by a black man in a red car who had been pulled over by a police officer and a deputy sheriff. The officers were approaching his car from behind. They appeared to be calm, and I didn’t see any guns. Part of me wanted to turn around and watch from a distance. But I kept going and said a prayer for the man in the car and for the officers. I asked God to keep them all safe.
What struck me in the few seconds as I drove by was the body language of the man sitting in the car. His hands were up on the ceiling, like he was pushing them up as high as he could within the confines of his car. It looked like he was smiling a wide and nervous smile, shaking his head from side to side, and saying something. I imagined that he could be saying: I’m not doing anything wrong. My hands are up, see? I’m not armed. I’m not resisting. God please let them know that.
I remembered the time I was pulled over by the police, many years ago, for going a little too fast. I remembered the sick feeling in my stomach of being in trouble. Then I thought about that feeling being magnified 1000 times. The thought made me shudder.
At the Potluck for Peace, about fifty of us shared a meal. We were a good mix of African American and Caucasian, with one Latina and several police officers.
Our speaker defined racism as prejudice + power.
We’ve all felt prejudice. When you add power, that’s when you get racism that can impede a person’s access to jobs, housing, safety, and justice.
We were invited to write feelings and thoughts about racism on giant sticky notes placed on the walls.
Then we were asked to discuss the notes nearest our table in small groups. My group focused on this one:
We talked about how fears and prejudices are passed on through generations, and how we need to start teaching children as early as possible to look beyond those fears and prejudices.
One black man shared about the internalized inferiority he felt as a child when he saw how sales people disregarded his mother in stores. As a child, he received the message that people like him and his family didn’t matter.
Black Lives Matter does not mean white lives don’t matter. All lives matter. But black lives have mattered less (sometimes far less) in our system for a long time.
Black lives matter because all lives matter.
We don’t have to pick a side. Black Lives Matter is part of the larger whole that all lives matter. Shouldn’t we give more caring attention to the parts of the whole that are being harmed more, including, not only black lives, but blue lives, and LGBT lives? Which reminds me of this video of the BLM/police cookout:
Lately, I’ve heard white people I respect referring to black and brown brothers and sisters. I’m relieved we are finally realizing that talking only in terms of black and white is polarizing.
What if we started to recognize all the colors in between black and white?
It makes me want to know what people want to be called: black, brown, black and brown, African American…. Maybe I’ll do an informal survey. Feel free to comment!
My friend’s grand daughter recently referred to another little girl as having peach colored skin. Maybe she has the right idea.
July 27, 2016 at 11:06 pm
This was a very touching post. I remember with one patient of mine who had many friends….there was his ex-girlfriend Lauren and another family friend named Jenny. One was black…one was white. One day his four year old niece was visiting and she commented about Lauren. Not sure if she knew which woman was which…her grandmother asked which one was Lauren and the granddaughter quickly replied…”the one with the cat.” I cherish this memory.
July 28, 2016 at 12:48 am
Thank you so much for sharing this! It’s amazing what children remember and how they remember.
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July 28, 2016 at 3:25 am
I sympathize with what you are trying to say, but I don’t think you even remotely understand the problem. I was alive when white racism was real and in your face (unlike a lot folks I personally remember signs over water fountains in the train station that specified which race could use them – saw that with my own eyes). Today the vast majority of whites go out of their way to not appear racist.
On the other hand virulent hatred and racism is rampant in the black community. How can love work when one side hates your guts and thinks you are responsible for all their problems? If we as whites really want to help our black brothers and sisters the first thing we need to come to understand is that a lot of the problem today is not with whites and whatever racism they may still harbor.
You were talking about seeing a black person in car stopped by police probably being very afraid. That is understandable. But do you understand what real reasons police have to fear blacks? According to the FBI 40% of cop killers are black. Blacks have committed over 50% of all homicides in the U.S. in the last 25 years where the race of the offender is known, although blacks as a whole are less than 15% of the population. Many inner cities with a majority of blacks have homicide rates equal to or greater than some of the most violent third world countries on the planet.
According to FBI stats blacks are way over-represented in violent crime. Police, and especially black police, have plenty of reason to be afraid of blacks. And ALL blacks suffer because of that (including the probably innocent guy you saw in a car). Blacks are the vast majority of the victims of black crime and homicide.
It is a difficult problem. But we have to place the problem where it really is, and that is not with white racism.
July 28, 2016 at 8:06 pm
It’s interesting how we all have our own experiences and perspectives. I, too was alive during the time of signs over water fountains. But I didn’t see them, probably because my childhood was spent either in our nation’s capital or living on military bases which were desegregated and full of diversity which felt normal to me. Much of my adult experience with black and brown people comes from my 30 years as a substance abuse/mental health counselor in a non-profit agency where I worked with diverse clients and coworkers and heard many different stories from people with different kinds of pain. I can only guess about your experiences. I’m saddened by the pain in the question of “how can you love work when one side hates your guts and thinks you are responsible for all their problems.” What a hard situation to be in. Work like that can take a huge toll after a while. I hope and pray for healing for anyone in that situation. I can certainly understand that police have real reasons to fear blacks. Your statistics make that clear. Being a police officer is an extremely difficult job. There are some people who do that job very well, with honor, integrity, and courage. I appreciate the service of the men and women in blue. I also believe we we need better training and screening to help police officers deal with the difficult challenges they face. I believe that when we share our experiences with openness, from out hearts, when we listen to each other with respect, we have a greater opportunity to heal and grow. I’m praying for you, Free2beinAmerica, and wish you blessings.
August 2, 2016 at 4:31 pm
well, if a 50% of the homicides were committed by black people, then that means another 50% of them were committed by white people, isn’t it? and if a 40% of the cop killers are black, then a 60% of them are white (or asian or red people).
August 2, 2016 at 4:35 pm
I mean, it is human kind they must fear, and not the black ones in particular
August 3, 2016 at 5:40 am
That makes sense, of course. I think his point had to do with the percentage in relation to the percentage of blacks in the overall population. But you make a better point.
August 5, 2016 at 6:53 pm
Thanks for your reply, JoAnna. Yes, it’s true, he might refer to the high percentage in relation to the percentage of blacks in the overall population. Seen from that angle might look like black people could be slightly more dangerous. But, anyway, if you think of the years of slavery and the way the African Americans were treated and are still considered by some kind of white individuals, then we must admit they are still quite patient, quiet and nice people, most of them, to not hate the white race so badly.
August 6, 2016 at 1:02 am
“[It] might look like black people could be slightly more dangerous.”
Look at it this way. Blacks are less than 15% of the population in America. But in reality almost all homicides by blacks are by black males. So in reality about 6% of the population has committed over 50% of the homicides in the U.S. where the race of the offender is known for well over a quarter of a century (FBI stats).
I would say that is a lot more that “SLIGHTLY more dangerous” (emphasis mine).
“if you think of the years of slavery and the way the African Americans were treated”
By that logic I could as a descendant of Irish immigrants harbor irrational hatred against present day Brits for what their ancestors did to my ancestors centuries ago. It is time to stop excusing people for what somebody did before electric lightbulbs existed, and that includes black folks.
And as to slavery, the great majority went to S. America, the Caribbean, and a whole lot to Islamic countries in the middle east. At least when imported slaves, unlike those taken to Islamic countries, we didn’t amputate the entire genitals of all males. And don’t forget that just about all of those slaves were sold into slavery by other blacks.
It is time to put history behind us. I think we need to really downplay “Black History Week” (and “Irish History Week” for all I care) and focus on the future, not the past.
August 6, 2016 at 3:54 am
Well, your argument must be correct, I won’t deny itr, but I believe there’s no excuse at all to have a racist mind. I wouldn’t judge people by tyhe color of their skin, but for their acts
August 6, 2016 at 4:39 am
One more thing,”just another wordpress author”: why don’t you mention the statistics about how many of the persons killed by cops are black?
August 6, 2016 at 4:13 pm
“…why don’t you mention the statistics about how many of the persons killed by cops are black?”
Here is a link to a fairly decent article on that subject:
5 Statistics You Need To Know About Cops Killing Blacks
The article has links to its sources.
More whites were killed in 2015 by police than black (roughly twice as many). But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Quoting from above:
“MacDonald also pointed out in her Hillsdale speech that blacks “commit 75 percent of all shootings, 70 percent of all robberies, and 66 percent of all violent crime” in New York City, even though they consist of 23 percent of the city’s population.”
“Black and Hispanic police officers are more likely to fire a gun at blacks than white officers. This is according to a Department of Justice report in 2015 about the Philadelphia Police Department, and is further confirmed that by a study conducted University of Pennsylvania criminologist Greg Ridgeway in 2015 that determined black cops were 3.3 times more likely to fire a gun than other cops at a crime scene.”
” Blacks are more likely to kill cops than be killed by cops. This is according to FBI data, which also found that 40 percent of cop killers are black. According to Mac Donald, the police officer is 18.5 times more likely to be killed by a black than a cop killing an unarmed black person.”
Actual statistics would predict that even more blacks would be killed by police (based on their participation rate in violent crime and violent resistance to arrest). White police appear to often be deterred from using as much violence against a black as they would a white simply because of the “Ferguson Effect” (Google that).
The real tragedy of many black neighborhoods is not police killing unarmed blacks. It is blacks killing other blacks, and not infrequently killing children in the crossfire.
If you want facts and statistics they are out there. Whether they will inform your intellect is yet to be seen.
August 7, 2016 at 4:44 pm
Thanks for your reply, “Just another…”, but I read the opposite somewhere else. They were mentioning a black therapist who got shot by the cops while he was just trying to help a mentally disturbed patient of his in the street. That happened only a few days ago.
August 7, 2016 at 5:26 pm
“They were mentioning a black therapist who got shot by the cops while he was just trying to help a mentally disturbed patient of his in the street…”
From what I read about that incident, the shot was negligent, not intentional. That was definitely a case where an officer should have been at minimum disciplined. If I as a concealed carry holder were to do something similar, to shoot someone accidentally, I don’t think there is any doubt that I would be charged with some crime and probably lose my permit to carry a concealed handgun.
By the way, have you ever shot a Glock semi-automatic pistol (a common brand carried by police)? It typically requires about 5.5 lbs of force to pull that trigger and discharge that firearm. You might be surprised at just how light that feels when you have a ton of adrenaline in your system. That is one reason why I go “old school” and carry a revolver that takes twice as much force to pull the trigger. If I ever shoot someone – God forbid – it won’t be an accident, that is for sure!
August 7, 2016 at 9:32 pm
I’m glad to know, what you are saying about. No, I never shot a gun, but in practices when I was doing my military service, as it is forbidden for us in Spain from possessing guns or any fire weapons at all, unless you have a special permission to which you need to pass a test an hard examination
August 6, 2016 at 10:52 pm
Thank you for your question, El Coleccionista. Regardless of skin color, no one should be killed without cause, when it was not necessary to kill.
August 7, 2016 at 4:35 pm
Thanks JoAnna. I totally agree with you. And that’s the main idea we must have in mind regarding this subject
August 7, 2016 at 5:12 pm
“no one should be killed without cause, when it was not necessary to kill.”
This is absolutely true. The problem is implementing and enforcing it in reality. There are far too many “edge cases” where the actual reality of what happened is difficult to determine and at least one of the witnesses is dead. If we are going to give loaded guns to police officers and expect them to go out and defend _us_ then we need to be prepared to give them some benefit of the doubt until there is clear evidence they have abused our trust or acted in a criminal manner.
But that is not what is happening and where the BLM folks are endangering society for both blacks and whites. According to BLM every time an officer shoots a black man the officer is guilty and they don’t want to see or hear any evidence to the contrary. I don’t think there is any doubt that if Michael Brown had been white that hardly anyone would have considered his shooting by a police officer unjustified.
But there is another side to the coin too. The police are definitely more militarized in equipment and attitude today than they were 50 years ago. When I was growing up (at least that long ago) almost all uniformed police carried a six shot revolver and were trained heavily to “make every shot count” and they were painfully aware that reloading that revolver was a relatively slow and therefore dangerous task. Therefore it was not usual for a suspect to be shot more than a couple times.
Today those same officers typically carry a semi-automatic handgun loaded with 15-19 rounds and reloading with another magazine can be done pretty quickly with a little practice. Their attitude is to “unload their gun” in a suspect until he falls down and is no longer a threat. According to the investigation the officer in Ferguson fired 12 shots. Don’t get me wrong, I think the officer was absolutely justified in shooting Michael Brown, but I am concerned with this attitude by police which to me to be seems more an emphasis on quantity of shots over quality (accurately well placed shots that stop the action right now).
It is possible that we give police in these shootings – not involving racial conflict – TOO much benefit of the doubt. That is why I am hugely in favor of body cams on police and citizens recording events with their cell phones. I am in favor of a law that makes it a crime for a police officer to threaten a citizen recording an interaction with police (which they are well known to do when they can).
Police are not perfect, but unless a citizen is willing to carry their own gun (as I do) and defend themselves and their family then they need to understand that police officers are imperfect human beings, like themselves, and support them until there is good reason not to. But it is irresponsible to immediately assume an officer is guilty because he shot an unarmed black man.
August 7, 2016 at 8:37 pm
I agree about police being more “militarized in equipment and attitude today than they were 50 years ago,” and about the cameras and right to record. It’s good to recognize common ground. My father, who served in the Marine Corps for 20 years, would likely find a lot of common ground with you. I appreciate your concerns and the time you’ve taken in expressing your thoughts, Just. I hope you have a great day.
August 6, 2016 at 4:02 pm
Facts are not racist. Facts simply are. One of the biggest facts today that is largely ignored is the racism of many blacks. White people are not doing blacks any favor by ignoring facts. You can’t solve a problem until you fully acknowledge its reality.
July 28, 2016 at 5:18 am
I watched an interview where the speaker said, you cannot call black people african american, it is like saying god and the devil are in the same body, or taking the name of the rapist and the victim of rape. i think your curiosity of black lives matter, is beautiful and courageous but there is so much more to it than the police vs. the black community. so much more has to be addressed, most importantly black history. not just knowing the token facts of how blacks were brought over and sold, but how it evolved into racism, and how racism has transformed over the years. i thank you for your curiosity and i pray you will continue to pursue more information. please refer to this post if you would like somewhere to start. https://simhawanders.wordpress.com/2016/07/28/open-dialogue-2/
July 28, 2016 at 8:29 pm
Thank you for these insights. I know it’s complicated and that we have much more to learn and address.I promise I am continuing my education and appreciate the link and the links included on that post. If I may ask, because I really want to know, how do your prefer to be identified regarding your race?
July 28, 2016 at 8:32 pm
I keep getting my reply in the wrong place. So instead I”ll share a link I found from my commenter above about black history: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUtAxUQjwB4
July 30, 2016 at 6:58 pm
I don’t know if we can fully teach in church and schools about how to be kind to everyone, when some homes of every background “undermine” the lessons.
My Mom was a HS teacher, mDad boy, a boy from the ghetto who worked from age 11 until a trucker who brought him home at age 14 and took him to the top of a hill overlooking a city, telling him he needed to “sleep and study” not be up all night helping his Mom pay the bills. Try to get a scholarship.
When he married Mom, he felt blessed, but he always told us we had to just look in the mirror to know we had already an easier life. We were never handed money except for lunch. We had to earn it, as we watched my Mom quietly choose students/people to donate college funds.
I have had many diverse experiences with people, most wish we just used their names but sometimes it is hard not to use color to describe when so much of life is using our eyes. When we learn to show love through our heart, in words, acts and unspoken gifts,we can make a difference. I do stop and look at police, sometimes I even pulled over and waited to see how someone was approached. Thank you for this beautiful post and how you expressed what and why all people “matter.” Edit this if too long, JoAnna. ❤
August 3, 2016 at 5:31 am
No need to edit. Thank you for sharing about your family. Your experience is valuable, as is your insight. ❤
August 24, 2016 at 4:57 am
If you hate your brother without a cause, you are condemned already! Folks, those aren’t my words, they are the words of Jesus. Some will say that people of a different color are not their brother. A persons color is something that we all have out of no choice of our own, we are all God’s children. If we hate someone for something that the person has no say about, like their color of skin then we are hating for no cause and we are definitely condemning our own selves to Hell because of our own ignorance and hatred of our human brothers!
August 24, 2016 at 5:14 am
Thank you, for taking the time to comment, Old Poet. We are all God’s children, created in all our marvelous diversity. I hope and pray we, as the human race, open our eyes to the value of this diversity.
August 24, 2016 at 4:58 am
Reblogged this on Truth Troubles: Why people hate the truths' of the real world.
August 24, 2016 at 5:15 am
August 24, 2016 at 3:43 pm
Reblogged this on Quemela.
August 24, 2016 at 9:26 pm
Thank you, Quemela!
August 29, 2016 at 6:10 am
Thanks for tackling a difficult and charged topic JoAnna. I don’t know what will resolve the racial tensions, but do believe having open conversations where we seek to understand others can help. How wonderful that your community held a gathering to do so, and you’ve done it here. Kudos. May we seek to understand, and realize we truly are all family on this planet.
September 15, 2016 at 7:46 am
Thanks so much for your support, Brad! We are all family, even if we don’t always get along. Hopefully we’ll get better at it.
September 15, 2016 at 9:49 am
September 14, 2016 at 11:18 pm
Hi!! I really appreciated this viewpoint. I’m just starting my own blog, please check it out!! My recent post is all about the Obamas and how sad I am that they are leaving the White House.
Please let me know what you think! http://bit.ly/2cxcmxs
September 15, 2016 at 8:06 am
Thank you! I’m so glad you appreciated this post. I loved your post about saying goodbye to the Obamas. I will miss them, too. But I bet they will continue to do great things.
June 4, 2017 at 5:30 pm
I highly agree with your post. Another way to look at it, along the lines you’re going on is that Black Lives Matter means “Black Lives Matter Too” or “Black Lives Matter Also.”
June 6, 2017 at 12:51 am
Yes! Those are good ways to say it. Thanks for the feedback!