“The issue isn’t with individual police officers who abuse their power.
The issue is a system that supports police officers who abuse their power.”
I was driving back from a country outing on the beautiful long holiday weekend we had recently. Up ahead on the road I saw police stopping vehicles before being allowed to pass through. “I wonder what’s going on? Maybe a child is lost or missing. Perhaps the road is closed for an accident.” A smiling police officer approaches the driver side of my car and I roll down my window. “Have you been drinking alcohol today?” “No officer,” I replied. “Have a nice day then” she said and that was it.
Not for a moment, nor a split second, did I have any fear or anxiety; that I could potentially be mistaken for a suspect in a crime and wrongfully arrested, that I could be dragged out of my car and beaten, that the police officer might shoot me while sitting in my car and bleed to death. Nope, not a thought at all from any of those hypothetical scenarios entered my carefree holiday mind. But then again, I am a white guy.
We are living in amplified, hyper-sensitized, polarized times. Black Lives Matter or #BLM, and it’s unfair counter – All Lives Matter is causing numerous visceral reactions across the political and social spectrum in the USA and also in here in Canada. I am not sure that it is a case of political correctness run amok but I am beginning to believe the Caucasians amongst us just don’t get it. We are trying to appear fair, understanding and balanced, but we are badly missing the mark. It appears that we are telling #BLM and their supporters that they are wrong to suggest the singularity of perceived injustice is transpiring in their community, and unless we emphasize the totality of the collective human condition, highlighting one group in such a manner is prejudiced toward all others.
No, I believe we are hijacking the symbolism of #BLM and advocating an improvement or modification like All Lives Matter and in some cases dismissing #BLM in its entirety. It is almost analogous to redefining what Holocaust means and applying its use more broadly and thereby watering down its true and accurate representation. I know how apoplectic many fellow Jews become when “Holocaust” is used in a context not related to WWII. “How dare they use the word Holocaust?” Well, I wonder how African-Americans feel when we are attempting to redefine or diminish their own intentions and meaning of #BLM?
I read the quote above, a Facebook post by a friend’s husband in the wake of the death by police of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. One may choose to agree with the statement or not. But reading those words helped me to begin to understand the feelings, frustrations and anger within the Black community, concerns that I couldn’t possibly have when I was stopped by the police on that long weekend trip. How can we tell anyone how he or she should feel or that they are wrong to feel a certain way? One feels what they feel. That is not up for debate. I believe that our inability to be fully empathetic to the Black experience is perchance unconsciously rooted in our own fear and judgment that we carry with us. Not of the African-American individual, but in the unknowing of who we truly are. The walls preventing us from understanding something or someone dissimilar from ourselves needs a wake-up call in self-awareness in order to begin to tear down these destructive barriers and allow for our individual liberation, freedom and inner peace.