Let’s listen to each other



A friend of mine recently started a discussion on her Facebook page that asked what the solutions are to what feels like a growing number of unarmed black men being killed in interactions with law enforcement. She asked if hiring more black police officers would help. The discussion was interesting and for the most part, civil. She’s great at fostering those types of discussions!

It is a question that I’ve pondered for more than a year. What will solve the problem? The thing is, I don’t think a problem this multi-faceted can be solved with a simple answer. I tried to write a few paragraphs in response but it turned into well, what you are reading now. I decided something this long was too much to load on someone’s Facebook page so I’m taking my thoughts to Jamie’s Thots.

The first several versions of this blog were more than 1,000 words. I ranted and raged about preconceived notions clouding our judgement of each other. I lamented how wrong and sad all this is. But you know what? I scrapped most of it.

The thing is, I think many people logically know that not all cops are prejudiced and not all black people are somehow dangerous. We know that in our heads, but fear and preconceived notions are rarely, if ever, logical. We react based on our perceptions and personal realities. It’s easy to say that we just have to remember all this in the heat of the moment. I think the work needs to happen well before then.

I’d be interested to learn from communities that, overall, are doing things right. What actions have the black community and the police community done to better understand each other? And, let me be blunt, what has the white community in those cities done to help foster this discussion and understanding?

White friends and family members, it’s people from our part of society and who look like us who started the prejudice and who created systems that would benefit white people. I agree that not all things labeled as racist actually deserve that label. But to deny that our systems were not originally set up to benefit white people is simply foolish and contradicts all that we know about history.  It’s up to us to figure out what those issues are and change them.

I’m also going to be equally blunt about known issues in some segments of the black community, which are the statistics so many white people like to bring up that show the high level of black-on-black crime. We must all believe and act on the belief that black lives matter. That means valuing yourselves within your own community. I know that as a white person, I can’t really do a whole lot about that. It’s not my place to tell you what to do. My responsibility is to focus on what I can do, which is to speak for justice, equality and change. I’m not going to wait to love people until the circumstances are perfect.

Back to the idea of how we can do actual work to make things better. We need to talk to each other. Forget the hashtags. Forget the narratives we’re told to believe by various sources. Let’s listen to individuals. We each have a voice in this. We can each make a difference. We won’t solve anything soon, but it’s a start.

That means we have to seek out people who are different from ourselves. We need to hear their truth, their perceptions, and their realities. Without trying to find ways to discredit what we hear with statistics and pseudo-empathy. We’re going to make each other mad. We’re going to push buttons. We’re going to feel negative things.

Let’s listen anyways.


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