I’ve never once walked down a street and been afraid of being stopped by a cop.
I’ve never gotten in my car and worried that I might be pulled over for simply driving.
I’ve never worried about having my cellphone’s camera on the ready to record video.
I’ve never had a friend get arrested that didn’t deserve it.
I’ve never had a police officer draw a gun on me out of fear.
I’ve never worried about what to teach my son to do when in the presence of a police officer.
I’ve never worried about the law not working in my favor.
I’ve never worried about being accused of wrongdoing because of what I’m wearing, how I’m talking, or where I’m going.
Why would I?
I’m white. And these days, that makes all the difference.
I have zero words that will make sense of what happened to Alton Sterling or Philando Castile. That’s because no words exist that could make sense of either situation.
I know plenty of people who will try and tell me that Alton Sterling was up to something. That he resisted arrested, that the video doesn’t clearly show where his hands were during the altercation, that he had a criminal background.
A registered and licensed gun owner. A man who worked in a school. A man out for a drive with an alleged broken tail light, who was shot for some unknown reason.
Unless there was a reason.
Unless it is because Philando Castile is black.
He followed the rules. He obeyed the police. He was shot four times. He bled to death in his car in front of the people he loved.
And I can’t help but think it was because
I’ve had several people ask me what my blog post was going to be on this issue. What do you have to say? What’s your take?
My take is that I’m genuinely scared for people who aren’t white like me. My take is our society has a race issue that runs deeper than we will admit, because it changes how the men and women sworn to protect all of us actually do their jobs.
I’m not going to castigate police officers as a whole, but good God Almighty, if we’re going to talk about screening the ever-loving crap out of anyone who wants to buy a gun, we’d better start doing a better job at screening the people we issue one as part of their job.
Because if you can’t approach a black man, a brown man, or a person who isn’t whiter than an Osmond dance album without a genuine fear for your life, then you shouldn’t be out on patrol.
And if you can’t handle a routine traffic stop of a person of color without shooting him in the chest in front of a kid, then you shouldn’t wear a badge.
I have people who will give me hell over what I’ve just typed. They’ll call me out for not knowing all of the facts, or for offering an opinion before the entire story is known. A few of them will be people who just want me to shut up.
But most of them are honorable men and women who either serve on a police force or have a loved one who serves. And I will feel conflicted because I appreciate their service and understand it is a far more challenging job than I could ever hope to understand.
I will feel sick to my stomach because I’ve read their posts on how, in this day and age, cops are genuinely unsure what may happen on even routine stops. I will feel for the officers who do the hard work in the scary parts of our towns and cities. They should be commended for what they do.
But they should also be the first ones shouting from the rooftops for the removal of those people who cannot serve with honor.
They should also not be okay with people posting things like Don’t resist arrest or Just do what the cops say and it will be fine.
It wasn’t for Philando Castile. It isn’t for a lot of young men who look like him.
And it needs to stop.
I have no simple solutions. How do you teach people not to fear someone who is different? How do you reprogram decades – hell, centuries – of seeing certain people a certain way? The closest I’ve been able to come is to tell my children to see people for their character, not their skin color.
But what good does that do?
While I’m teaching my kids that “Jesus loves the little children” a friend of mine is teaching her teenage son that he has to follow the rules even when the rules seem to change all the time for people with his skin color.
So no, I don’t know what to do, except to say that it needs to stop.
Shooting someone because you are scared of their skin color must stop.
Black lives matter, and it’s a damn shame we have to be reminded of that.