Sunday, August 24, 2014

Six Degrees of Compassion: US Law Enforcement

1.  We need to demilitarize our police departments and provide training and an environment for them within the communities to, once again, become peace officers.

2.  All need to wear video cameras, for their protection as well as the citizens.

3.  The use of lethal force is out of control. Officers desperately need more training in non-lethal measures.

4.  Racism and various forms of bigotry need to be dealt with in an honest way, in safe environments, rather than seething beneath the surface, erupting in deadly ways. It needs to be acknowledged as being part of our systems, infecting all institutions. It's everywhere.

5.  How about dealing with the over-weaponization of citizens so the police don't feel they're constantly in mortal danger...even when they aren't? Follow the money trail. The NRA and weapon manufacturers benefit from this battle on the streets of the US.

6.  How about a simple first step of encouraging officers to remember that the citizens they are policing are fellow human beings? Sometimes officers are faced with people actively engaged in violent crimes, but most often they aren't...they prejudge for many reasons and the results are deadly, given the current environment and mindset of the system of law enforcement.

PRACTICAL COMPASSION | Sharing thoughts, ideas, and visions of a more compassionate, collaborative, joy-filled world.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Hey, White People with White Kids...

(For more information about the above image, click here)

UPDATED: 8/24/14

(Adapted from a Facebook post. I'm a white female, by the way.)

Is the title of this blog inflammatory? I don't think so. I believe true change comes from within and thus racism must be acknowledged and addressed by white people, by whom and for whom the vast majority of our systems and institutions were created, providing an advantage -- or at the very least not having a disadvantage -- based on the color of one's skin. This includes the growing numbers of white Americans living in poverty.

I'm especially talking to those of you predisposed to see young men like Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown as thugs. (I doubt you're even aware of the many other young black people killed nearly weekly, unarmed and committing no crime whatsoever, because the shooter felt threatened due to the color of their skin or made deadly assumptions about them.)

Neither of those young men had a police record or "rap sheet," in spite of what is floating around the cesspool that is often the internet.

There is no evidence whatsoever that Trayvon was committing a crime at the time of Zimmerman stalking and then ultimately shooting him. None.

Michael may or may not have committed a crime just before the encounter with Officer Darren Wilson.

Let's say he did. And let's say he absolutely unnecessarily and even thuggishly shoved that store clerk, for no good reason whatsoever. Let's say he behaved horribly, even though there has been no definitive connection between the incident at the store and his death at the hands of Officer Darren Wilson.

What if it were your child?

I know some of you from youth...and I know some of you shoplifted and committed petty crimes. Maybe some of your kids have done the same, at that same age. Doesn't make it right...I'm not defending any criminality. Just pointing out that a lot of things are done by people at that age that they're not proud of; they may or may not have gotten caught and suffered the consequences. Some of you didn't get caught, but you did the crime nevertheless.

But let's say your child, even a large male child, just committed the crime of stealing something from the corner store, not armed.

All you know and all you care about is that your child is lying in the middle of a fairly quiet street for hours. Dead. Shot AT LEAST SIX TIMES. You are forced to stay outside the police tape line, and don't see anyone attempting to resuscitate your child or even take his pulse.

What if this occurred in an environment in which local law enforcement has been known, for decades, to target and harass people who look like your son? So there is the added layer of a generational history of anger and mistrust and fear involved, built in to your personal tragedy.

Given the details, or lack thereof, and the sequence of events of how law enforcement has handled this shooting, wouldn't you feel you're losing your mind?

The outside events swirling around the death of your child don't matter. People are protesting and a small faction of criminals are being opportunistic, wreaking havoc by looting and stealing and behaving like horrible human beings even though they are NOT representative of the people in your community nor a reflection of your child.  (Click here to learn, as I have recently, about the straw man of "outside agitators).

That all matters not.

Your child is dead, at someone else's hands. And you don't know precisely how or why, and you're not getting answers.

The investigation is FUBAR. All efforts seem geared toward portraying your child as a white thug or distracting from your child altogether, and you know there are millions of people saying that because your child may have stolen something from the corner store, he's a thug. He's nothing else...he's simply a thug now, of no value.

Your child is like most kids: not an angel, not a devil. A human being. In this social media age, there may be images of them flashing the middle finger or vines using profanity or singing offensive lyrics or any number of things -- many of which, I might add, I see adults doing as well. It's interesting how the media chooses the images and stories which least represent your child and try to take away their humanity...and then strangers believe it and pile on. Even worse, they use pictures that aren't even of your child to try to dehumanize him. All of these horrible, horrible words and lies and even mistaken images are now on the Internet, forever. 

The officer who shot your son -- there is no question who shot your child -- wasn't even identified in the media for nearly a week. It appears the blue line was put into place quickly, deflecting to cast all blame on your child.

What if people were raising money to support the person who shot your child, without all the details having been revealed?

You would want attention given to this because you don't trust the authorities. I know I would scream to the high heavens, wanting answers, and justice. Wouldn't you?

Chances are if this happened to your white child, strangers who heard about the event wouldn't respond by demonizing your boy, and simultaneously demonizing all white people. (Chances are if this horrible travesty happened to your white child it wouldn't have garnered a lot media attention, because it's not a pattern in this country. The excessive force cases that I've seen, which involve white teens and young adults, are fairly expeditiously processed and the officers or private citizens charged and brought to trial. But if such an event happens to any child and justice doesn't seem to be served, I would hope we would all rise up, trying to put ourselves in the place of the parents and the community.)

How would you feel? Can you even attempt to have compassion and empathize?

I can't imagine...and thank God I can't. Thankfully I don't have the daily worry that because of the color of my child's skin she may be seen as a threat and a target. There are so many things we parents worry about already. What a relief to not have THAT particular worry. What a privilege. No one should have such a worry.

But that is not the reality of non-white parents. Or white parents with children who don't have white skin.

I've nearly lost my mind by witnessing these tragedies for decades and observing the absolutely hateful, vile, ignorant, dangerous responses to such events.

It's a deadly disease, racism, and we all need to acknowledge it, and work to prevent it and heal it. You can act like it isn't your problem, that it's all about "those people," but you really can't shield yourself from it. It's's systemic, it's institutionalized. For the sake of all you hold dear, please don't add to this disease and spread it. You never know how it may infect or affect someone you love, leading them to inflict harm upon other human beings.

What if it were your child?

PRACTICAL COMPASSION | Sharing thoughts, ideas, and visions of a more compassionate, collaborative, joy-filled world.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Humanity's Deepest Wound

In light of the most recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, please think about and consider this. When a crime is in the news, so often this what is thought about those involved:

Hispanic: Illegal   (the entire culture)
Arab: Terrorist   (the entire culture)
Black: Thug, gang   (the entire culture)
White: Mental Illness, troubled, lacking support  (the individual)

Nearly weekly we hear of the killing of young black people, unarmed, often at the hands of law enforcement.

I realize we "other" fellow humans and see them as less than for a multitude of reasons beyond their behavior: race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, economic status. Certainly white, heterosexual, Christian men can be discriminated against, systemically and institutionally, because of their economic status, for example.

Yet it is simply a fact that being white, or even perceived as white, makes a difference. I know many bristle at this because they also feel slighted or abused in some way in our society. And even though there are always exceptions, it is simply a fact that the default privilege and preference in our institutions and systems is still for white people (especially white, straight, Christian men)...and non-white persons are treated, sometimes overtly, often subtly, as less than in some way. This may be the deepest wound humanity has yet to heal, imho.

I don't want anyone treated as less than. I want everyone lifted up, to be recognized as worthy. We're all connected, and we're all in this together.

The following is a perfect example of the pervasive prejudice which I'm able to point out when I hear it.

Whenever there is an event, like the travesty in Ferguson, Missouri, I hear: 

"I don't know why they have to loot?" (I also heard a similar comment after Obama was elected: "I just hope they don't all get crazy and start rioting now." Okie dokie then.)

Who is they? ALL black people? ALL of the black people in that community, in this case Ferguson?

There are criminals and douchebags in all segments of society. The vast majority of citizens protesting in Ferguson are trying to STOP the crimes and vandalism. I've posted examples of how citizens are going around painting over graffiti, etc. Yet when many people hear about "looting" when the crowds involved are primarily black people, they cast their judgment on all black people, or certainly the black people in the community in question.

We've seen riots in the US and other countries, especially since the recession, in which a lot of white people, especially young men, are rioting and vandalizing. WTO protests were a great example of when we saw many young white faces in confrontation with police and rioting. Sports events are a common cause of riots!

I didn't hear anyone say, "Why do they have to loot?" Because "they" didn't have a label or prejudgment against them.

The entire white population was not judged based on the actions of a few; the entire local white population was not judged based on the actions of the white people rioting. 

Check yourselves.

There are so many wonderful articles and commentaries floating around these intertubes right now, with a few links for recommended reading below.

Here is an excerpt from the article - "A Mother's White Privilege":

"To admit white privilege is to admit a stake, however small, in ongoing injustice. It’s to see a world different than your previous perception. Acknowledging that your own group enjoys social and economic benefits of systemic racism is frightening and uncomfortable. It leads to hard questions of conscience may of us aren’t prepared to face. There is substantial anger: at oneself, at the systems of oppression, and mostly at the bearer of bad news, a convenient target of displacement. But think on this." 

Why White Moms Need to Care About Murdered Black Children

11 Things White People Need to Stop Saying to Black People

To Be White and Reckon with the Death of Michael Brown

PRACTICAL COMPASSION | Sharing thoughts, ideas, and visions of a more compassionate, collaborative, joy-filled world.