Violence in America

It’s been a tough week. The racially biased result in the grand jury process in Missouri. The 12-year-old with a bb gun shot to death in Cleveland by a rookie cop. The piece in Rolling Stone about rape at U.V.A. and how intertwined it is in the university’s culture, enabled all the way to the top.

If I am tired of raging and crying, it’s nothing to the fatigue, despair, and desperation suffered by people who live every day with the hostility they encounter due to the color of their skin.

And I fear sending my daughters to college. I shudder, knowing that statistics indicate that some percentage of the people they grow up with will one day choose to harass or assault girls and/or women.

The world feels terribly dangerous and doomed right now. We can’t seem to find a way to respect each other’s humanity. We can’t seem to figure out that consent and understanding, compassion and integrity are far more important than money, than being on top, than control.

Why did Darren Wilson kill Michael Brown? In part, because, I think, he privileged his state of mind above the life of another human being. We’ve become a cowardly nation addicted to the “Stand Your Ground” philosophy perverted to mean that you have the right to hunt somebody down and kill them if you feel threatened. This week is tough. But they’re all tough. 96 black citizens are killed by police officers every year. That’s almost two a week. Those killings are not reported in the news, and a significant chunk of white America thinks that numbers like that one just prove that black men are dangerous. White America created white supremacy. White America is responsible for dismantling it.

As Tim Wise says in this excellent piece:

To white America, in the main, police are the folks who help get our cats out of the tree, or who take us on ride-arounds to show us how gosh-darned exciting it is to be a cop. We experience police most often as helpful, as protectors of our lives and property. But that is not the black experience by and large; and black people know this, however much we don’t. The history of law enforcement in America, with regard to black folks, has been one of unremitting oppression. That is neither hyperbole nor opinion, but incontrovertible fact.


… it is in these moments—moments like those provided by events in Ferguson—that the limits of our commitment to that aspirational America are laid bare. It is in moments like these when the chasm between our respective understandings of the world—itself opened up by the equally cavernous differences in the way we’ve experienced it—seems almost impossible to bridge. But bridge them we must, before the strain of our repetitive motion disorder does permanent and untreatable damage to our collective national body.

I approach this Thanksgiving with a heavy heart.

It is hard to know what and how to explain matters to my daughter. And again, as hard as that is for me to contemplate, I think about how much terribly worse it is for a mother of a son or daughter of color to explain how to try to avoid getting beaten or killed by a cop.



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