I wrote this off line today. With everything going on it America lately this has been bothering me. Hopefully I won’t forget about it and just move on but I don’t want to be writing about this all the time. Just because it was on my mind I hope it is on some of yours as well.
About six months ago, in a conversation about problems facing minority communities in our area, someone said to me that one of the local police departments in the area at a meeting stated that their goal is to contain the folks causing the troubles in that one neighborhood so the “rest” of the population is not affected. I was upset by that comment. Oh and another part of that comment was that as long as they are just killing each other that is better than them killing other people.
That has bothered me for a long time and then yesterday during an interview on NPR some law enforcement person said the same word in a similar context about the approach of many big city departments. “Contain the problem behaviors in one area of the city so others are not touched by the problems” Not a mention of spending additional funds on these communities to put in strong programs for youth that will keep them from ending up with guns and in gangs. Community policing done right works in communities to reduce crime, build trust and to lower the death rates. We need to have the youth in communities to be successful no matter what their family situation. Mentoring as long as it continues over time really does work. If a trusted adult is there to give advice, support and be a cheering squad for a youth who lives with parents or guardians who are struggling themselves. Those kids can make it out of poverty.
The question for me is do those with the power really want our minority youth to be successful. To become well educated adults who are major contributors to society. Can we look inside ourselves and find those bits of prejudice we don’t think we have and work on getting rid of them? No one can say they don’t have prejudice at some level. Some underlying fear when they see a tattoo covered youth walking towards them no matter the color. Parts of their city they won’t drive through because it is a “dangerous community”. I don’t drive through certain neighborhoods because I have no reason to be there but why is that? Do I avoid places?
Being totally honest, living in my little safe white community when I go to visit my son and his family it takes a minute now to readjust. They live in a diverse middle class community in a large city. Their children know all kinds of minority youth and are getting education about heroes of the civil rights movement and learning that we don’t judge people by their color but by how they behave towards others. I am not use to seeing people of color in my daily life. Actually I don’t see many people at all these days. Organizations I belong to are not diverse, I have never thought about whether any of my acquaintances have friends of color. Since I no longer work I miss my old friends I met through my job. We would go out to lunch, talk about grandkids and our wishes and dreams for their futures. I worked in a diverse world and I liked it. I felt more whole.
My church is a diverse community. It is growing more so all the time. And we work on social justice issues on a regular basis. Lots of folks volunteer in various ways but again, are we really seeing the people we volunteer with as they really are or as people we are doing a nice thing for and nothing beyond that.
I just think I have a lot to learn about my own attitudes and to do a whole lot of self-examination. If I were asked I would tell my friends and family they need to do the same. When you look at someone what do you really think? Who would make you think about crossing the street to the other side if they were walking towards you? How do you talk to people? Do you know how lucky you are to be able to drive down the street and not worry about being stopped by the police? If you get stopped what thought goes through your mind? Fear, anxiety, oh well I got caught? I got stopped recently for speeding and when he came up to me I was laughing… yup laughing First time since 1967 that I got stopped, pretty good for all those years of speeding. I did get stopped one other time and when the fellow saw who I was he said I should have told him before he wrote the ticket, then he walked away, stopped and came back to me and gave me the ticket – “I am retiring today and won’t be in court if I did give you this ticket so here, rip it up and forget about it”. I did and I wished him a happy retirement. I did not have to feel fear because I am a white little old lady. I serious doubt they are going to shoot me when I reach in my purse to get out my license.
Just think on that… and look at your kids and think about what you would be telling them if your kids were other than white? Then hug them please. They are all precious and don’t deserve to experience prejudice, none of them do.