Montrell Jackson recently said on Facebook that it was hard to be a black police officer in Baton Rouge. In uniform some of the people he was trying to serve hated him but out of uniform some of his coworkers saw him as a threat (source – BBC). Just a few days ago he also wrote, “These are trying times. Please don’t let hate infect your heart. This city MUST and WILL get better.” (source CNN) And, quoting CNN, ‘to all the protesters, officers, friends, family and neighbors in need of a hug or a prayer in Baton Rouge, he offered a promise: “I got you.”’ This was a good man and a good place to start healing between the black community and the police in a city still in shock over the shooting of Alton Sterling.
Montrell Jackson was gunned down by an angry young man who thought he was fighting a war against injustice.
A friend of mine attended a Black Lives matter protest in Manchester, NH. It was a peaceful event and the protesters and police chatted and shook hands. Off to the side there were several young white men carrying assault weapons. They were the only ones not smiling, not shaking hands, not being friendly. As the shooting in Dallas showed, the “Open Carry” folk don’t help, they actually make the problem worse if there is an active shooting incident. These people didn’t care. They were there to try to bully and intimidate black people. They were there because of their racism, though I bet you $1000 that none of them consider themselves as racist.
I recently un-friended a few people on Facebook. They were people I knew (slightly) from childhood but who were never real friends of mine. At times I read their posts just to try to understand where the extreme right was coming from. After the recent shootings of unarmed black men these people started their racist rants. When the shooting took place in Dallas they grew even more hateful, which I didn’t know was possible. After saying again and again that they weren’t racist, these people would go on to say that all blacks have low IQs and a high propensity to violence. (Of course the people writing didn’t use the word “propensity” as there are more than two syllables in that word.) Did you know that President Obama was trying to start a race war? They had article after article, most from Fox News, to prove it. I didn’t read any of the articles so I never figured out what President Obama hoped to gain from the race war, but then again, these people said the President’s IQ was about 60 so he probably doesn’t have a good reason.
The roots of racism in this country are very deep. We will not be able to pull them out in this generation. Or the next. If you try to pull out that weed of racism it will break off someplace deep down and just come back. And it is in all of us, if you like it or not. I grew up in a time and place were racism always lurked just under the surface. We told racist jokes and were afraid of black people. I met some individual black people as a child and liked them and had no hatred against them as individuals, but then later, amongst my friends, I would continue to say mean spirited things. Not against the people I knew, of course, but hateful things about the mysterious, “them”. Funny thing, as a young kid I loved Fat Albert, watched Soul Train, listened to Motown and even read Ebony and Jet magazines (my parents went to a black fashion show ever year and received a free subscription, alternating the magazines year to year). On paper I shouldn’t harbor any racism. But yet it is impossible to totally eradicate a person’s environment. As I grew older I understood that what I thought was silliness was hate and have tried to expunge it, but I occasionally I still find some unpleasant remnant hiding deep in my subconscious. If it’s that way with me, how is it for those who never recognize the fact, who don’t remain vigilant against their own minds? I see the answer all of the time on Facebook.
So how do we solve it?
There is so much mistrust on both sides of the issues. There is so much hatred on both sides. At times I think we need to gather all of the people like my ex-Facebook “friends” and all of the people like the Dallas and Baton Rouge shooters and have them go after each other and leave the rest of us in peace to figure it out. Of course that isn’t even a nice thing to think. But we do have to find a way to solve the issue so we can all live in this country at peace.
One thing is for sure, there needs to be more trust between police and the communities they serve. They need to have more people from the communities on the force so they feel like part of it instead of an occupying force. But that takes effort from both sides. The people of the community need to be open to it, not call people from the neighborhood who join the police traitors and even worse names. The police need to be more accepting of people from some of the places they think of as “problem” neighborhoods. Institutionalized racism needs to be recognized and eradicated from the police. Dallas was actually making a lot of changes that helped to reduce the friction between police and community. I hope the tragedy there will strengthen the commitment from all sides and they continue that direction.
Besides the obvious from the last paragraph, I have no answers. I say that we need to try to get along, that we need to respect each other, that we need to try to see the issues from the eyes of others, that we need more love and less hate. But what good does it do? The people who listen already feel that way. The people who need to listen won’t.
With tears in her eyes and a hard time controlling her voice, Alton Sterling’s aunt made an emotional plea for the killing to stop. No matter which side of the issue you are on, please listen. And I will go a step further and say the hatred must stop. We are all humans with the same wants, needs and desires. We can all look at the stars and hope, but we all can see the dark of night and despair. My voice is small, but if some join in, perhaps we can be as the stars and offer that hope in this dark night.
Let’s remember Montrell Jackson and his words, “These are trying times. Please don’t let hate infect your heart. This city MUST and WILL get better.” But replace “city” with “country”. Do your part to help, be a star of hope.
(Picture below is of me and a black man who does NOT have a low IQ ;) )