I Can’t Breathe

Quarantine, Day 74
Minneapolis Riots, Day 3

I appreciate/understand that I’m blessed. My husband, son, and I are all healthy and safe at home. My husband and I continue to work (from home) and get paid. We’d really like to get back to the gym and church, but we’re safe, healthy, and our needs are met. Not everyone is that fortunate right now.

Likewise, we live in undeserved privilege because we were born white. I can wear a dark hoodie in public, or a face mask, and no one looks at me like I might be there to rob them. My son can go for a run after dark and not fear that he’ll be shot or arrested because he might be running from a crime scene. If I get pulled over for something like speeding or expired license tabs, I don’t worry that one wrong twitch will get me shot.

I can’t even begin to pretend that I understand what it’s like to be a person of color in America. They face challenges I will never experience. They are judged and threatened even just going about their law-abiding day-to-day lives.

When I was a child, I went about my life thinking that racism was mostly a southern thing, and that the overt kind of racism was limited to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, white trash “Bubbas,” and ignorant old people. I grew up in white small towns in the middle of nowhere, and I believed that Martin Luther King fixed things.

Even after I grew up, moved to the city, and got educated – though I learned that racism and slavery were alive and well – I still didn’t think it happened here. We’re “Minnesota nice,” right? I got to know some people of color. We went to church together, raised our kids together, and worked together. I gave very little thought to the color of their skin.

Then police shootings started to make headlines. I took my usual stance of “calm down,” “hear the whole story,” and “think before you act.” That’s kind of who I am. There are two sides to everything, and I hate when people freak out and make a situation worse because of their inflammatory behavior (something a lot of people need to consider before they hit that share button on Facebook…). But have I extended that same courtesy to the accused? We’re innocent until proven guilty in America. Yet I’ve been quick to jump to the defense of police, but not the accused. That’s evidence of my inherent white privilege bias – the “whole story” is a principle that needs to be evenly applied.

The dawning of my racial awareness has been slow…

Yesterday I woke up and MY city was on fire.

  • I can’t tell myself that racism doesn’t happen here, because it does. It did. It costs innocent people their security and their lives.
  • Being a cop is a hard, thankless job, and they deserve our support, but so is being a person of color in America. They deserve the benefit of the doubt, a chance to tell their stories, and our support as they go about their lives trying to do the right thing and take care of their own.
  • Yes, there are criminals out there – lots of them. Yes, they deserve to be prosecuted and punished. But the law, and the benefit of the doubt need to be evenly applied. And there are bad cops out there, too. They deserve to be prosecuted and punished, too.
  • I wish good and bad were fixed, concrete ideas, and that good always won and bad was always defeated. But the simple truth is that sometimes everyone is right AND everyone is wrong. I understand the anger and the protests. I don’t understand the looting and burning. This is our city, our home. Rioting vents frustration and sends a message that the world can’t ignore, but it also advances stereotypes of violence and untrustworthiness. It damages the businesses we depend on and widens the gaps between people.

I want to DO something, but I don’t know what to do. God knows I have a lot to learn, and that I don’t have solutions. I just want to serve my neighbors who are wronged. I want to support justice. I want to pull out the roots of my own biases. But I also kind of want to hide. I don’t have answers, or the right to speak for others. But just worrying about my own attitudes and behaviors doesn’t feel like enough when my city is burning.

I’m frustrated. Heartbroken. Angry. So I pray. I examine myself. I talk to others who want change without violence. I pray some more. I try to educate myself so I can do better and be better in the future.

I can’t bury my head in the sand any longer. It’s too hard to breathe like that.

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