I never saw myself writing a post like this, and I can't really figure out how to order the words in my head, so it might not be my best writing. But I want to say it anyway. It feels awkward as I type and reread it; not my comfort zone. For what it's worth:
A month ago I pulled over to help my kids with a searing hot seat belt. As I turned around to help, I saw that a cop had pulled over behind me. He'd seen the kids changing places and bouncing around trying to help each other. I shouldn't have pulled out into traffic until everyone was restrained in the first place; my bad. I explained the situation to the policeman, and he found a baby wipe for me, we cooled it off, and I was issued a warning. The officer told me that it was just for my records, and that it wouldn't affect my insurance, etc. I thanked him, glanced at it, and then resumed my life.
A month passed. (It was actually more like 3 years in crazy-busy-time.)
Then last Friday I received an official delinquent notice from the city justice court informing me that I had failed to appear in court or deposit bail, and that a warrant for my arrest would be issued and/or my driving privileges would be suspended by August 23. Bail and cost was $110.00.
Let's just say that I was in a vulnerable moment anyway, and it freaked me out a little. Also, it was Friday evening, and the offices were closed for the weekend.
The freak-out only lasted a few minutes, and I was able to reason with myself. It was obviously a mistake. I could handle everything on Monday when the offices reopened. Worst case scenario, it would cost me 100 bucks. Worst, worst, worst case scenario would be a stay in jail, which would be bad, but I would survive. Therapy afterwards for my kids would be draining, however...(also, the laundry pile-up that would happen was sobering.)
Then I had the thought, that as soon as they saw who I was, they would realize that the whole thing was a mistake and that I didn't belong in jail.
And there was a moment of suspended disbelief that the brain that I love my Mama with could think such a thought. This is what my friend refers to as White Privilege. (Thanks Jaime and Laura for teaching me about this. Also, Malcolm Gladwell for making me think about it more.)
The radio has been alive with reports of "Debtor's Prisons" in several states her in the US, where black people are being held for minor legal infractions because they couldn't pay their tickets. It goes without saying that they were possibly also being targeted for those minor offences in the first place. There are also law enforcement officers who are being unfairly judged as being racist, and a lot of innocent bystanders in the crossfire.
The country is on fire with protests, demonstrations, lootings, pain, death. "MY life matters!" "No, MY life matters!" Many are suffering.
But not here. Mostly not in Happy Valley, Utah. And even though the city clerk on the phone couldn't see me, she could safely assume that I was white, and even that I'm LDS (80%). And I could safely assume the same thing. And there was no problem, and have a nice day. Sorry about the mistake.
Whew, right? Lots of people and troubles, glad it's not me! But the trouble with that way of thinking is that it IS me. As long as I am a citizen of planet earth, I am a young black male being unfairly treated. I am a Jew in Nazi Germany. I am a refugee being denied basic living conditions. I am the child being abused, I am the lonely elderly woman, the autistic teen being bullied, the Muslim down the street: I am you, and you are me, and we need each other.
At one point in our American History, there was an extermination order issued for the Mormons. Frankly, when we don't protect each other, none of us is safe.
If I were a young black male, would I be able to waltz in and just calmly declare that my citation was a mistake? Would my encounter with the police have been the same in the first place?
Would they be willing to entertain my claims, and take the time to resolve them? Would I have a voice?
What if I had to choose between paying $100 and feeding my children for the week? What if there was no choice because I didn't have $100 in the first place?
I don't know how to fix it. I don't know how to say that we're all people, and we're all doing the best we can with what we have. And I know that there are evil people out there with evil agendas, but I firmly believe that most people are good.
I want to give the police officers and the people they serve the benefit of the doubt. I'm thankful for those who risk their lives every day to serve and keep me safe. I want everyone to feel safe--the black and the white and the every shade of the rainbow in between. I also want color-blind justice for those who hurt others with their choices. There HAS to be a way.
So, I can't stop unfair targeting, but I can speak up when I see it. I can't find homes for all the refugees, or fix their political problems, but I can make and donate a blanket to the local refugee shelter, be aware of needs and serve in small ways.
I can help my children to see how they can make a difference in their classrooms just by including someone different. I can welcome everyone into my home. I can educate my children, and others, as education is the key, in my opinion. I can write down my incomplete ideas, and maybe listen to and encourage others.
That's what I'm thinking.