Tag Archives: Police shootings

In the Blink of an Eye

“Racial profiling is a longstanding and deeply troubling national problem despite claims that the United States has entered a “post-racial era.” It occurs every day, in cities and towns across the country, when law enforcement and private security target people of color for humiliating and often frightening detentions, interrogations, and searches without evidence of criminal activity and based on perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion.”

 

I read a blog sent out by ACLU that said just because police are afraid of an African-American man (or woman) that is no excuse to kill them.

It got me thinking about Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink.

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He says that we make decisions in the blink of an eye. Sometimes this is excellent. Some could call it intuition. But it often leads to the kinds of tragedies that are played out on the streets of big and small cities across America.

Police officers answering calls, especially domestic violence calls, are afraid for their lives. They know what has happened to other officers and that it could happen to them. They pull their guns fast and use them faster. If it’s a person of color it seems even faster. I’m not sure it’s because of racial hatred. It’s definitely racial profiling.

Ruminating about this, I started thinking about my own quick impressions of people. If I see a white older man in a suit, I think to myself: If that guy is a senator and a Republican he’s probably a Christian who only feels charity to other Christians. If he’s a “southern gentleman”, I throw in that he’s a racist bigot. I know it’s wrong to think that way. I’m trying to get over it.

Living in California there are many Hispanic people around me. Yesterday I got my car washed and sat next to two women speaking rapid fire Spanish. I’ve been working on my Spanish so I always eavesdrop to try to figure out what’s being said. As usual, I could pick out a few words here and there, but it was too quick for me. The men washing the cars, the man who took my information, the young woman who checked me out—they were all Hispanic. Should I generalize that all Hispanics are working class so how could they afford to get their car washed? A scene in the movie Beatrice At Dinner illustrates this well. When Beatrice, a guest, comes up to speak to Lithgow’s character, he asks her to refill his drink. He assumes she’s a servant. It’s not only because she’s wearing casual clothing; it’s because she’s Hispanic by birth. It’s a cringe-worthy moment.

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The ACLU blog got me thinking about how I feel if I see a black man. Do I immediately blink and feel fear? I don’t. I’m very happy to say that. I do not want to be a racist. I do not want to jump to conclusions about a person because of his or her race.

I was fortunate to grow up in Seattle and attend schools that were multi-racial and ethnic. I went back and taught in my junior high school and learned as much from my students as I taught them. So I avoided a lot of the scourge of racism. Not all, of course. But like Spanish, I keep working on it.

Besides being “white”, I am Jewish, which makes me a little schizophrenic in America, and always a little afraid.

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I don’t “look Jewish” so I can pass easily in society. Until someone spouts a Jewish slur. That’s why I announce early into a conversation with a new acquaintance that I’m Jewish. I don’t want to suffer again the embarrassment of hearing someone say: “Don’t Jew me down.”

I’ve never wanted to admit that America is not the land of the free and the home of the brave. I love that myth. I love the stories of the Pilgrims and the Indians sharing the first Thanksgiving.

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It’s so sad at 71 to be aware it was a mythology we were taught. My generation was raised on Westerns where homesteaders and cowboys were heroes.

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We never realized that the scalps being taken and the arrows being shot were from the knives and bows of the people the land belonged to.

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They were defending their property! We had no compassion whatsoever. It’s taken me a long time and perhaps the Donald Trump administration to pull the blinders fully from my rose colored eye-apparel.

I’m not saying I’m not proud to be an American. I am.

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I know how lucky I am that my grandparents had the courage to immigrate here, to a democratic capitalist nation. To a place where they had opportunity. I’m just acknowledging that the United States is not perfect. Nothing is. (Not even me.) But we can keep learning and growing.

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We don’t have to be a melting pot to create a fabulous America. We can be a mixed salad with innovative and flavorful ingredients. Remember the posters United WE Stand after 9/11? Let’s remember that is our greatness.

Fer Klempt, For Good

There are sometimes my heart is so full that I get choked with emotion. Last Friday we walked to Mercerdale Park on Mercer Island, a suburb of Seattle, to watch the high school homecoming parade. Really we went to watch the high school band. Really we went to watch our grandson play the trumpet in the band.

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A combination of things came together to overfill my heart. First and foremost was seeing our grandson, 16, standing amongst his band mates. I felt so much love and pride mixed with awe that the baby I’d held (not so long ago, was it?) was now this accomplished young man. I was completely fer klempt.

The sound of the band and the nip in the air stirred something in me too. I had a subliminal instant flashback to the days of Garfield High and the UDub—going to the games with my friends and with my dad. In this troubled world, it was comforting to see untainted exuberance. There was a small town innocence without the feeling of xenophobia that we’ve been witnessing on the news. And I didn’t think too hard about injustice and prejudice for a moment. I just enjoyed.

The next day, the breaking news on television was the rally and  march in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was a peaceful protest against police shooting black men like Keith Scott and Terence Crutcher. Hundreds of Charlotte residents turned out—blacks, whites, Asians, Hispanics, gay, straight and in between. Parents pushed their kids in strollers, teenage kids with drums beat out a cadence—much like what had happened the afternoon before on Mercer Island.

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It was the white people wearing Black Lives Matter t-shirts that got me fer klempt the second time in two days. They get it, I thought as I choked back tears. They understand where the focus has to be—not right now on all lives mattering, but on the lives that haven’t been mattering.

America is a complex country with systemic problems. It’s no fairy tale and a lot of times there are no happy endings. It’s better to acknowledge that, instead of covering it up. Otherwise, we’re just ostriches and the status quo will rule. Call me sentimental, but I’d like to see Americans working together with mutual respect to solve our problems. In this country, we have the potential to do just that. I wouldn’t live anywhere else.

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