On Tuesday evening, I was in a car accident. (This is why I didn't post on Wednesday or Thursday). No one was hurt and both vehicles received only minor damage. However, minor damage to a rusting out seventeen year old car with close to a quarter million miles on it that just barely passed inspection last time around was enough to render it beyond repairing.
We moved our vehicles off to the side of the highway and waited for the police to come. They made it about as quickly as you would expect during rush hour traffic and quickly and courteously made their report.
I am grateful for the job these policemen do. It is a difficult subject to talk about right now, in light of what has been going on in Ferguson, MO. Would things have been different if I were a young black man in Missouri? Perhaps.
I also don’t want to get into a variant of the Not All Men Meme. We should all know that not all cops are bad. Not all cops are racists. Not all cops are involved in police brutality. In fact, I believe that most law enforcement officers are good honest caring people that are trained to avoid escalation of the use of force and to examine their racial assumptions.
These days, politics and social media seems to be stuck with a focus on all that is messed up. I believe that we need to change our focus, to focus on gratitude for people who are doing the right thing, and helping making doing the right thing more of the social norm.
We need to focus on supporting young college men who confront their peers and tell that that it is just plain wrong to get a woman drunk so you can take advantage of her. We need to focus on law enforcement officers who stand up to racism and police brutality and who know that any racism or police brutality by law enforcement officer hurts all law enforcement officers.
So, I’ve been very interested in learning more about Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson. A picture of him showing a Kappa Alpha Psi greeting, being mistaken as a gang sign illustrates so many things. It illustrates the racism that many hold onto, immediately assuming a hand signal by a black man is a gang sign, instead of a sign of being a member of a college fraternity. It illustrates the good that can come from a good man getting involved with a good organization.
Fiona ran through the darkness, her heart pounding, fueled by adrenaline. Catching up was an adult with a flashlight. She ducked into a barn. The horses spooked and reared, yet Fiona found a safe place to hide.
I was at home, after a conference on Racism. I wasn’t sure where my daughter was, other than that she was out with some friends. I thought about the riots in Ferguson.
If I were black and living in Ferguson, or many other places around our country I probably would have been worrying about my child’s safety but I am white and living in a part of Connecticut where racial tensions are much better concealed.
I am grateful that my daughter can run around with friends after dark, screaming and laughing and I don’t have to worry. It is a privilege I have, being white. It is a privilege I wish more parents had.
I don’t normally quote conservative blogs, but this one is priceless. Apparently, Republicans in Missouri are outraged that liberals are trying to get the people of Ferguson to express their frustrations at the voting booth. From Breitbart:
In an interview with Breitbart News, Missouri RNC executive director Matt Wills expressed outrage about the reports.
“If that’s not fanning the political flames, I don’t know what is,” Wills said, “I think it’s not only disgusting but completely inappropriate.”
Wills explained that the shooting death of Michael Brown was a tragedy for everyone.
“This is not just a tragedy for the African American community this is a tragedy for the Missouri community as well as the community of what we call America,” he said. “Injecting race into this conversation and into this tragedy, not only is not helpful, but it doesn’t help a continued conversation of justice and peace.”
If registering people to vote is “fanning the political flames”, then we need more people fanning the flames. Personally, I think registering to vote is the most appropriate and constructive thing that can be done in response to the tragedy. But maybe Mr. Wills would rather see looting.
As to “injecting race into this conversation”, well, a continued conversation that ignores the elephant in the room doesn’t seem particularly helpful either.
The other day, I was talking with a friend about political campaigns and social media. He commented that all he was seeing in a specific candidate’s social media political posts was negativity. I see a lot of that as well and it struck me that perhaps what is needed is politicians who will post for 100 days, things they are grateful about.
There are less than 80 days left until this year’s election, so even doing it until election day would be a big thing. Such posts could reflect the values of the candidates in a much more beneficial manner.
The 100 days of gratitude, or sometimes 100 days of happiness is a popular challenge going around the internet right now, so making it 100 days of political gratitude isn’t a big stretch. Also, with the ice bucket challenge going around right now, social media challenges appear to be the thing, although I know some are beginning to weary of such challenges.
So, to all my friends running for office this year, are you up for a 100 Days of Political Gratitude challenge?
It may be that the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is close to running its course. More and more, I see people criticizing it, asking not to be tagged, etc. A friend who runs a rescue farm wrote about not having time, ice or money, and I thought, we need a farm chore challenge. Muck out a stall, feed some horses, and share a video of it online, or contribute to an animal rescue.
It made me think of another challenge, which I’ve been trying to get a chance to write a few thoughts about for the past couple weeks, the 100 days of gratitude challenge. One such gratitude I might post is about being able to safely let my twelve year old run around outside after dark with friends screaming and laughing and having fun. Not everyone gets to do that. In fact, far too few people get to do that.
It made me think of my friends who have black kids and the talks they have to have with their kids.
Today, another friend posted, “I love that the ALS challenge is capturing attention, wish we could create a Michael Brown Challenge....” Many friends replied and I started to reply there, but I thought it might be better as a blog post.
The power of the Ice Bucket Challenge is that it is something lots of people can participate in and share virally. Many of us may be too cash strapped to be able to contribute to the ALS Association, but we can at least help share the message with a video. What might be a good simple thing many people could do to help spread the word about undoing racism?
Since I had just gotten home from church, my thoughts started off in that direction. The church I currently go to is very diverse. It is one of the things I love about my church. However, at other times, I’ve attended churches that are very homogenous.
I remember years ago, when I was in college, a friend of mine invited me to go to church with him. We walked along the road together, and a car pulled up and asked if he was going to church. He said he was and that I was coming with him. We both climbed in the car and headed off to church.
As we walked up the steps, Ronnie introduced me to many of his friends. One, an older woman, looked me over closely and said, “I’m surprised you want to come to church with us.” I looked at her, puzzled. “Really?” I asked. “Why?” She got all flustered and apologized and said maybe she shouldn’t have said anything. I looked around for a clue as to what that was all about, and it slowly occurred to me. I was the only white person there.
During the service, there was a time for guests to get up and introduce themselves. I felt awkward and insecure as the eyes of a hundred black churchgoers looked at the only white person in the congregation.
For me, a white person who was not accustomed to being in the minority, it was an enlightening experience. I wondered if that was how some of my black friends often felt.
My first thought was that the undoing racism challenge for white folks might be something like going to a setting where they experience being in a minority. Yet getting people to take pictures of that and share it online might be a challenge, limiting the potential to go viral.
Instead, what if we made it simpler. Post a picture of yourself hugging someone from a different race or ethnicity and challenging your friends to do the same, and then perhaps attending some sort of undoing racism training or contributing to an organization aimed at undoing racism.
I realize it isn’t much of an ask, and I can imagine some of my racist friends who talk about how even one of their best friends is black, might participate to convince themselves they aren’t racist, but it is small enough and simple enough to be doable.