Today I woke up feeling sad. The community I grew up in is under a fire storm of media, speculation and anger. We know very few details yet about a police officer shooting which involved a young 32 year old man. There was a Live stream video that went viral, and every one’s imagination went wild about what happened. We only saw the moments after he was shot multiple times by the officer. We did not witness what occurred before. My news feed has blown up of people fighting about what happened and has divided between pro-black lives matter and pro-cops. I sit here on the fence supporting both.
I’m a mother of a young boy. He will be 4 in October. The shooting I am discussing had a child that was 4 years old in the back seat. In all of this discussion about the victim and the officer, I sit here worried about a 4 year old that has now witnessed a violent death. A child that will likely grow up in a world and witness violence in their community. This child will be scarred, and likely suffer nightmares, fear, anxiety and terror. In all of the this I think of my own son. My son would be petrified and terrified in a situation where he watched his daddy be shot and killed. I have no idea how he would ever recover. People say children that age don’t have long memories, but I disagree. My son is still telling me about events that took place months ago. They remember and those memories get firmly marked in their brains. They develop neurological responses to those memories, and it creates a pattern of how they will respond to the world as they grow.
As a mother of a child that is disabled, I live in a world of inequality. I understand the obstacles that he faces and that we face as a family. We fight for inclusion, understanding and for the main stream to accept our position in the world. While I don’t understand what it’s like to be a person with skin other than white, I know what it feels like to be marginalized because of my son. I know how society has a way of marking everything in to boxes. Things are either good or bad, right or wrong, normal or abnormal, able bodied or disabled, and neuro-typical or neuro-diverse. I know that the path we are on as a society is so flawed, so broken that every single sub-culture on the outside of what we deem “typical” suffers.
Our media only fuels the fire by spouting to us half truths, false ideals and selling a story line that may or may not be true. We are consumers of these stories. In 2016, we live in a fast pace news world, and we often don’t even know the facts before we make our judgments. Many times we can look back and realize what we assumed was wrong. We no longer take the time to assess the situation, learn all the facts, and then determine how we feel about things. We react to what we see. We see half of the issue, and assume we know it all. What we are doing is creating a dangerous environment of public assumption and speculation. I’m guilty of it too. I read these stories and assume I know it all. However, I often look back and reflect, and I realize I need to stop and really wait for things to unfold before I form any opinions.
Please don’t think I’m discounting what happened last week. In fact, of any person I am trying my best to understand. I grew up in the town where the officers serve. My hometown has been all of the national news. If you knew the people in this town, you would know it’s a lot more than what the news is saying. It is a small inner ring suburb of Minneapolis. It has a small population which makes you feel like you are in a small town even though it borders Northeast Minneapolis. The schools in the city are the best in the state. In fact the High School is consistently ranked in the top of the state every year. As I an alumni of that High School I have always been so proud of that fact. It is a small town but doesn’t lack diversity. In fact my parents live next door to immigrants from Tibet. There are people from all walks of life, from every economic back ground, and from many different cultures. It is a safe community, and there is rarely ever violence. As a child, I admired and respected the police force. In a town this size, you get to know the cops of the community. They are involved and invested. They speak at events at the high school, many are there to keep athletic and community events safe. Our town isn’t full of cops that are racist.
What I know is that we know so little yet about what happened, but we are all quickly forming opinions and assumptions. I do know that racial inequality exists, I do know that gun violence is out of control in our country, and I know that children are witnessing violence by guns more than we would like to admit. We are creating a culture where we convict people in the media before an investigation can even be done. I’m also watching people accuse the victim of not being a good guy. I see his driving record all over Facebook as if traffic violations are a reason to be killed. We need to stop assuming. We need to stop jumping to conclusions. As a society and a community we need to come together. All people, all cultures, skin colors, economic back grounds and abilities need to have a stake in this change. We cannot change by yelling at one another behind our screens. We will not change by sitting passively. We need laws to change what is currently going on with guns, we need better training for police officers and training about profiling, we need better programs to help those living in poverty actually get out of poverty, and we need to stop looking at each other’s skin colors and simply look at each other as humans.
As a mom to a child that will face inequality for his entire life, the one thing I am going to give him is a humanist perspective. I am going to teach him to love and respect all humans regardless of their position in society. We have lost track of the fact that we are all humans. We aren’t a skin color, social status, economic status or ability status. We are humans. We are all born and we will all die. Everything in between is up to us determine how it will go. I refuse to have the dashes between my birth date and death date be wasted. Will you waste yours? Be the change you want to see! Get involved in your community. Take action and contact your politicians about the laws you want to see. Contact your police forces and get to know who is serving you. Be a part of the solution!