I have looked back on my blog over the past year, and sadly, this isn’t the first time when I sit and wonder how I am going to explain senseless anger and violence to my students. They are on summer break now, and so am I, yet I sit here and try to make sense out of a political world gone crazy. And anger, so much hate and anger that is spilling over the media, my Facebook feed, Twitter, and at just about every discussion with friends and colleagues.
There were shootings again this week. Two black men, killed at the hands of police officers in different parts of the country. Again, the cries of so many, the marches, the rhetoric. We have become a nation of soundbites. The larger issues of racism, poverty, education, health care issues, too difficult to manage, so we resort to hashtags and slogans. Candidates for the highest office in the land are fighting against each other, with neither offering real leadership or focus on the issues facing this country. Too busy trying to get elected, I guess in an election where most of us feel we are choosing between the lesser of two evils, not with true support in the candidate or their message.
I too have been part of the hashtags and slogans. I posted this on my page this week, reaching back 50 years to find something to remind us we are better than what I see and hear before me now. He wasn’t perfect, but he believed in something greater than himself, Then he was shot and killed, and we remember, but have we learned?
This past week, 10 police officers were shot by a sniper during a peaceful protest in Dallas protesting the shootings earlier in the week. Five were killed, the others still hospitalized. Three other police officers have been shot this week since then. More posts, more hashtags, more mourning, more anger and no answers. I thought President Obama summarized it well, Keep talking, racial tension won’t end over night, keep talking.
But there is a deafening silence from those of us who don’t know what to say that will make a difference. Those of us afraid to say the wrong thing, to be shouted down, to be dismissed as naive, to ask the more difficult questions.
I have been relatively quiet this week. My husband was a police officer for a short time. I know the fear a wife feels when the person they love goes to work each day. I know there are good cops and bad cops, and to say that there is justice for all would be a lie. This post showed up on my feed this week, and I found myself needing to speak. I know that I am a middle aged, middle class white woman, and that my lens, my privilege give me a view of the world that is different from others. I have learned that to work to be culturally proficient means to recognize your own bias, your own lens, and then listen to a variety of perspectives to better understand what’s going on. I have learned to check myself, to listen more and speak more carefully. So I need to push back on this post, and say, the operative word to me is matter.
I can recognize the injustice, and use my voice, my platform to continue to ask the tough questions. I can recognize that there are systems broken, and work to fix them. I can teach my students to see more than one story. We do not live in a color blind society, nor should we. Every person, every life, deserves to be respected. I can say black lives matter and mean it. I can recognize there are issues with our judicial system and speak up about it can still respect those men and women who choose to be police officers in this nation. I can hold them accountable when they abuse their position, and mourn their death and fear for their safety. So when I look at these hashtags, the words lives and matter are what I choose to focus on. Quality of life, honoring diversity and speaking up for those who do not have the power or the privilege in our system to do so matters. Do what matters, because all our lives, and the lives of our children, depend on it.