Terence Crutcher. Another name I wish I didn’t know for this reason. Another heart wrenching video. Another dead man. Another hashtag.
My heart is so heavy.
It’s heavy and I want to be an encouragement. I want to be a light. But sometimes in order to see the light you have to get past the dark truth.
You don’t have to agree with my opinion. You don’t have to like it. You don’t even have to like me. But please, I just ask you to listen. Hear me out. Because I have heard you…
I’ve heard you say that in spite of the relevance of his message (hello somebody), the method Colin Kaepernick and others are choosing to relay it is disrespectful. You view it as a travesty to our nation and to our men and women in uniform, and I’ve heard you call him awful things in the name of patriotism.
I’ve heard you emphatically yell “all lives matter, all lives matter!!” and that the #blacklivesmatter movement isn’t effective or bringing about any real change. You say it’s only adding fuel to the fire.
I’ve heard you say that we need to get this upset with all the black on black crime. We should be outraged at what we’re doing to each other.
I’ve heard you talk about the poor degenerate black community and how we really ought to worry more about ourselves.
I’ve heard you say that they should have listened! All they had to do was comply!!
I’ve heard you say that if only they had done what they were told they wouldn’t have received that bullet in their chest, their back, their throat, their head…
I’ve heard you say that I don’t know what it’s like to be in uniform. You say I don’t know what it’s like to put my life on the line every day or be married to someone who does.
I’ve heard you say a lot.
Now let me tell you this.
I don’t pretend to know what it’s like to be in your shoes, so don’t pacify, belittle or ignore me when I try to explain what it’s like to be in mine.
Unless you are black in America, you have no idea what it’s like to be black in America.
It doesn’t matter that my husband is Caucasian and my daughters walk around in their beautiful Disney-approved caramel light skin.
It doesn’t matter that I’m perceived as non-threatening because I “talk like a white girl” or grew up in a cozy California suburb.
It doesn’t matter that I’ve grown accustomed to being the token black girl in the room.
When I look in the mirror, any mirror, my brown skin is what I see.
My brown skin is what you see.
When I climb out of bed every morning my skin doesn’t change, and sadly, neither do some people’s views and opinions of those who look like me.
You might not be the one dwelling on my complexion, but there are far too many who are.
This year, no, this month alone I’ve read and seen numerous things that have made my stomach churn.
I’ve had to shut it all down, guard my heart and shield my eyes.
I’ve had to fall on my knees in prayer when I see the comments about lynching our current president or how these ‘black punks’ deserve everything that’s coming to them. I have to contain my outrage when my husband tells me about his former co-worker who, while watching the NFL draft, referred to the young African American male on the TV screen as “another thug who’s about to be rich”. I’ve had to get over the shock (why am I even shocked?) when I hear about the KKK delivering their paraphernalia on doorsteps in a neighboring state on MLK Day. I have to be wise in my outrage when I talk to people who still don’t think racism is real.
Maybe it’s not real in your world, but do I really have to outline the number of times I’ve been called or referred to as a n***** for you to understand?!!
When my brother, who served in the USMC, walks out his door each day, nobody knows of the sacrifices he’s made for our country or who he is to my family and I. Nobody knows what he means to my little girls, and it makes me sick knowing all the times our mother has had to worry that his appearance alone may put him in the category of a ‘bad dude’. She still worries, and the same goes for my father, my uncle, nephews, cousins and friends whose skin is a reflection of mine.
This is my reality.
I cry with every Terence Cutcher, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Sandra Bland, Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin and the countless more I didn’t mention here. I cry for the countless names that, tragically, are going to come.
I don’t know how to explain this to my babies one day. I don’t know how to tell them about that fine line between caution and trust when it comes to authority. I don’t know how to explain to them that there are people who will hate them because of the skin they’re in or the skin their mama is in. I don’t know how to tell them that they may have a slightly different experience because of their complexion and their gender.
I don’t know how to tell them they must never let their guard down.
I don’t know how to tell them about that time I was pulled over for DWB, while my white friend sat in the passenger seat and cried. She didn’t understand why I was being yanked out of my car and given a DUI test when I’d had nothing to drink and done nothing wrong. Or that time when a young white boy was scolded by his mother for holding the door open for me and a friend because, as his mother said, “we never hold the door open for them.” Or that time…or that time…or that time…
The list goes on.
I have far more questions than answers but do you know what I do tell them now, at 2 and 4 years old?
I tell my children that police officers are here to help. I tell them they’re (mostly) the good guys although I know that when they get older the more complex conversations will have to unfold. I tell them that God loves all of us and that He is our ultimate protector. And I tell them, yes, I tell them, to pray, pray, pray.
And as much as I weep at the devastating acts being committed by these individuals in uniform, I also cry for the police officers who lose their lives. I cried for the officers who were killed in Dallas. I cry for the men and women who are full of integrity but are gunned down because of the actions of their counterparts in some twisted sense of justice. I cry for those here and overseas who lose their lives in the line of duty.
Did you know I can be black AND care about their lives as well?
Why do you assume that because I want you to see that black lives matter too, I can’t possibly value all lives?
Do you value all lives?
The heaviness doesn’t lift.
You don’t have to get on board with my perspective in order to be empathetic, but will you at least try to understand? Is that too much to ask?
It hurts my feelings when you disregard my pain. And it hurts my black brothers when you decide their lives aren’t worth living.
The cares of this world are heavy my friends. Heavier by the day in my estimation. I don’t have the answers. I don’t have the solutions. But I will continue to seek His face in the midst of it all. I will continue to pray, hope and believe, and as I feel led I hope to be obedient in sharing my thoughts.
As Patty. As Patricia. As a wife, mother and believer.
As your black friend, I just want you to know…
THIS IS NOT OKAY.