An Ill-Informed Opinion


A friend of mine asked me tonight what I thought about the riots in Missouri.  I had no idea what she was talking about.

See, I get my news from NPR and Facebook, generally.  Facebook is not a great source for anything except what’s popular with the masses, but NPR is pretty reliable.  Unfortunately, I’ve been listening to audio books in the car, so I’ve been pretty detached from the world.  That meant that for me, the big news this week was the sad death of Robin Williams.

Well, I came home determined to find out what was going on.  Some poor kid was shot to death and it became a race thing because the kid was black and the cop was white.  Every report I read took great pains to point out that the boy was black, that the police force in the suburb is mostly white, that the suburb’s population has a black majority, that the chief of the state troopers who took over for the city cops was black, and the races (black or white) of the government officials who got involved.

Anyone else see the problem here?

In my heart of hearts, I don’t like or trust cops.  In a general sense, I like them out there, doing their jobs.  But I have never in my life seen a cop car in my rear view mirror and been relieved.  I tend to get paranoid about my speed and traffic laws and, you know, what if I did something wrong but I didn’t know it was wrong and I get pulled into the justice system which is jacked up and ruins my life.  I have no specific incident for this paranoia.  In fact, according to the predominant feelings of our nation, I should have no fear whatsoever for our boys in blue.  I am white, after all.

I shouldn’t be writing about this because I don’t know enough.  I wasn’t there when the kid was shot, or when the protests started.  I wasn’t there when a candlelight vigil became a riot or when officers used dogs and teargas against protestors.  But part of me is very exhausted with race being the excuse.

Yes.  Excuse.  If we want to free ourselves from race issues we have got to stop thinking in terms of race.  The victim is described every time as black.  Even with photos showing the contrary, the police force is definitely white.  Is that all we are?  Is that all we can see about each other?  Well, yes.  It’s not about dangerous neighborhoods or in-built distrust for police.  It’s about that boy being black and that cop being white.

I am not defending that officer, nor am I disregarding the possibility that the incident was race related.  I don’t know really what I’m saying.  I don’t understand how we are still crippled by such biases.  I don’t understand how a vigil becomes an excuse to break windows and loot stores.  I don’t understand how a peaceful protest in America can be confronted by dogs and teargas, nor how anyone can claim peaceful intent when molotov cocktails are involved.

I don’t understand.  I don’t want to believe it’s about race anymore.  I want to believe it’s about culture, socio-economic friction, mob mentality, anything besides race.  Pretty soon, people will be asking if the response would have been the same if the cop was black, if the victim was white, or some other nonsense, if they haven’t already.  Stupid questions.  There is no way to know and speculating just makes the race issue that much more prevalent because people are relying on racial stereotypes for their assessment.

What matters is that an 18-year-old boy is dead and there’s an ongoing inquiry.  Everything else is just so much toss.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “An Ill-Informed Opinion

  1. I like to rant. The purpose of the equal rights act was to assure that all people got the same treatment good or bad. It was not to make people color blind. News flash: Differences exist. Just because there is a law out there that says that regardless of differences, people are people, doesn’t make the differences disappear. And on EVERY piece of government paperwork, it asks the race/ethnicity question. One lady I knew was of mixed race…she was a self proclaimed mutt. When asked to fill out the race/ethnicity questions, she asked, “If I say black or black Hispanic, will I get a better deal?” If we were all brownish yellowish reddish whitish, they wouldn’t ask that question would they. Ever read the Sneeches by Dr. Suess?
    So to all you cops out there–if you come upon someone suspicious and the adrenaline starts pumping and your senses go to lvl 10, check to see what race/ethnicity this person is. Ask him questions in Spanish, French, Swahili, Choctaw, and English, and then bring in a psychologist to see what his mental state is. If he’s going for his pocket or his belt, assume it is because he has his ID in his pocket or has an itch from a chigger bite. Then when he shoots you in the chest you can be assured that you did everything you could to keep him from being unfairly accused due to some perceived bigotry. On the other hand, if you find yourself confronted by an officer of the law, and he says hands up, put your hands up, don’t argue, don’t threaten, and don’t, for heaven’s sake, reach for your pocket or your belt. When you are face down on the pavement, calmly note his race/ethnicity, and ask him non threatening questions in Spanish, French, Swahili, Choctaw and English, then ask the psychologist (who will be accompanying every officer from now on) to examine his mental state. In this way, you will not offend this person that you can freely assume is a dumb bigot if he’s white or a humanitarian icon capable of understanding quantum physics and who ponders the great questions of life, the universe and everything but has a really short temper if he’s a person of color. If this law enforcement officer is female, assume she’s PMSing and all bets are off. You’re screwed.

  2. “I don’t understand how a vigil becomes an excuse to break windows and loot stores. I don’t understand how a peaceful protest in America can be confronted by dogs and teargas, nor how anyone can claim peaceful intent when molotov cocktails are involved.

    What matters is that an 18-year-old boy is dead and there’s an ongoing inquiry. Everything else is just so much toss.”

    Love. great statements

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