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.