Tuesday, April 28, 2015

This is a Conversation

My husband and I went out to dinner last night to our favorite pizza joint to celebrate his upcoming promotion. The restaurant had their TV turned to the news out of Baltimore, with live coverage of the protests. During the course of our dinner, a police car was swarmed by over a hundred people and smashed to bits, another car was set on fire, and a CVS was looted.

As I watched these events unfold, I couldn't help but think:

"This is a conversation."

It's not a pleasant conversation, to be sure. It's not a civil conversation, not a mature conversation, not a peaceful conversation, but it is a conversation nonetheless.

As the protesters smashed up the police car, our waitress walked away from the television, disgusted, and uttered a single word: "Animals."

Oh no, trust me, they're human. Nothing could be more human.

Since Obama was elected, everyone has been saying that we need to have a "national conversation" about race. This is part of that conversation.

The thing is, up until now, we've mostly only been seeing a monologue. Those in power have been saying for centuries to the poor black people, "We don't see you as worthwhile human beings. We don't see you as equals. We don't value your life." These words have been repeated over and over again. First they were spoken through slavery, then through Jim Crow laws, then segregation.

The monologue was interrupted during the Civil Rights movement, but only briefly. Concessions were made, and the laws were no longer the voice of the monologue.

But the monologue didn't stop. It continued through the police.

And these protests, violent and destructive though they may be, are the poor black communities' best way to speak back, to join the conversation, and actually be heard.

"When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse."

"...like it or not nice law-abiding white folks, black citizens are entitled to live their lives free of police beatings, violations of their right to enjoy a walk down the street without getting tossed against a wall..."

And, in the "you learn something new every day" category: The police actually do have a Bill of Rights that goes well above and beyond what us non-cops have.

"...ignorance of the law is an excuse if you're a cop."

"To keep the affluent Baltimore viable, city officials have pursued a laser-like focus on crime, ensuring its new up-and-coming neighbourhoods stay safe. Meanwhile, in sprawling low-income areas on the city's east and west sides, the police have been omnipresent. Sometimes their methods have bordered on draconian."

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