I want to start off by defining a word we hear alot and that is the word prejudice. The Oxford Dictionary defines prejudice as a "preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience."
I am deeply saddened what happened to George Floyd. I was deeply saddened to hear about Ahmaud Arbery and to learn that it happened so close to home. I am saddened and angry to hear about so many others before this that have felt an injustice or mistreated just because of the color of their skin. This is behavior that should not be happening. It should not just be swept under the rug. There needs to be change. How can we change?
I believe most have a prejudice. I see so many other bloggers state that they are not racist. Maybe that is true but there is still a prejudice. How many white men or women do you know that would lock their car doors if they went into a black neighborhood? How many would hold their purse a little tighter? How many would become more alert and try to identify any potential threats? Would you do that in an all white neighborhood? A change needs to occur. This change cannot just be put on the police department (more on this) or the legal system or the politicians alone. It needs to START with us. We as a people need to be able to self reflect and identify these prejudices in ourselves. Stop saying or believing you aren't part of the problem that keeps this going. Stop saying it's not you, it's everyone else. Stop saying you have that one black friend or that you aren't racist so you are ok. You probably still hold a prejudice. What is it and how do you act on it? And that is where the change begins....
If you are a white person that is reading this and don't understand privilege, well let me give you examples. How many of you know a pretty woman, maybe you are one of them, that got out of a speeding ticket by batting your pretty eyes or crying those sweet tears? How many of you have committed a crime, maybe having just one too many drinks, driving home and only getting a slap on the wrist? How many of you have gotten into a bar fight and been given a waring? Maybe you were caught with some marijuana on you and given probation? Maybe you come from wealth and know the right people or can hire the right lawyers to bail you out of any trouble or just sweep things under the rug. It happens all the time. It happens all the day. I'm not alone. I've gotten out of speeding tickets. I've been given warnings for my wrongdoings and sent on my way. If you are a person of color things don't go this way.
These prejudices are not something we are born with. It is evident in our children. My daughter sees mixed races in her school or at the park. She may notice the different skin colors and ask why but she does not fear them. She plays with them as she would any other child. We are born seeing people as just that, people. We see each other as a potential friend. We feel safe with each other. It isn't until we get older when our families or society tells us to see each other as the other and to be cautious. We start fearing those that are different because maybe our parents did or because the media shows it. Maybe it is because you grow up in an all white neighborhood where you are told this is a safe community and those are the "bad neighborhoods." How many of us were told what side of town to not go on? This is where those prejudices start. Should we grow up learning to not protect ourselves? No. We still need to be safe and learn safety precautions, but those safety precautions are not because of one group of people. If you look up the statistics, the majority of sex offenders are white men. So why should I teach my daughters to be scared of the black men only? Maybe it is time we learn from our children and stop seeing each other as an other and just start seeing each other as a person or as a friend.
How do we feel safe? I have so many mixed emotions about what is going on because I know many police officers. My husband was once a police offer. I deeply respect them. I respect what they do and have the understanding they have a tough job, needs to act quickly but at the same time safely. Their training is taught to eliminate threats. With that being said, there are many great cops out there. There are many that go into for the right reasons with the passion for helping, for caring for their community, and the hope to help others. At the same time, there are bad ones as well. I'm not sure what made them bad. Maybe they went into being an officer for the wrong reasons. Maybe they became jaded after enough years on the job and instead of leaving they just powered through it. Maybe the power went to their head. I can't give an answer. What I do know is that those officers and these incidences are further making a wedge in the divide between black vs white. An academy training is not enough. In my profession as a social worker I need to get continuing education every year in order to keep my license. Maybe this needs to be required of cops. Maybe they need continued training and education on sensitivity, race relations, and excessive force? Maybe they need to be required to have a certain amount of hours of therapy per month or year. Maybe we need more minority groups sitting in on union negotiations or town/city commissions? Is this even enough?
What I do know is that if you ask the officers about this incident, they are NOT happy about what happened. They do not support the officers that murdered George Floyd. Many officers, chiefs, and departments have stated their dismay against what happened and attempted to show support to the peaceful protesters. I have seen this by the chief in Minneapolis, Genesee County in Michigan, and even right here in my own backyard of Bluffton, SC. Their practices were against the teaching in basic police training. It should not have happened and accountability needs to happen. What I do know is that we cannot eliminate the police as a whole. I would not feel safe in a community where the communities have to self police, especially in a big city. I do not trust a gun slinging neighbor to protect the streets or my neighborhood. I feel safer when police are present. But at the same time I understand there are many people and a large amount of them being minority that do not feel safe when they see a police car. They feel threatened. So the question becomes how do we bring these groups together? Is it even possible?
I am sad, concerned, enraged, anxious, and just about every emotion in seeing the riots going on. I believe in protesting and our first amendment rights. People are angry. I am angry. We need to be heard. People need to be heard. I feel that my voice is constantly be shaded by politicians. I feel angry all the time that the rules that are made for me, for my body, for other women's bodies are made by white men. I get mad when laws are based on the basis of religion or the Bible when our constitution says to keep Church and State separate. I am mad that white men are deciding the needs and services for women of all races, for men of every other race other than white. I have a distrust in our government and our political system. I see a divide. I see selfishness and power hungry people who aren't making decision for the poeple. We need to say that enough is enough, but at the same time we cannot fight violence with violence. We cannot destroy cities, hurt property, ruin business and innocent people's livelihood, and make the community unsafer in order to get our word out or our point across. Setting things ablaze is unsafe. It causes potential of spreading and hurting people. Many people and business are already struggling with the pandemic. Looting and stealing merchandise isn't getting the right message across. People fear leaving their home. I fear leaving my home. My in-laws are on their way driving down here to Savannah with my two daughters as I write this and we have fear because they have to drive through big cities. No one wants to get caught in the middle of a violent riot, fires, and destruction. I will be terrified until they get home. This is not making the right kind of change. This isn't making any change. Seeing signs that say F*** the police, or Against the Police is just making a bigger divide between the two groups. Is that what we want? Do we want a greater divide or do we want an open discussion.
I don't have the answers. What I hope for is peace and unity. I hope for change, but this change needs to start in ourselves. Maybe it is too late for us adults to change our mindsets but their is hope for the kids. Their is hope for a better future for the. I hope for a unity and a togetherness between the police and the blacks. I hope for people to educate themselves. Not all black women are welfare queens. Not all black men are trying to rob you. Not all white men are trying to oppress you. Not all white women are too selfish to care. Not all white men are made to be leaders and not all black men are made to be athletes. Not all black men are thugs. This goes on to all the communities. Not all Indian people are doctors. Not all Islamic people are terrorists. Not all Mexican people are grass cutters. The list goes on. The words we use, the names we call each other, the stereotypes that keep going are not helping to make a change.