In the aftermath of more police shootings and shooting of police, people are sharing their anger and frustration everywhere. Understandable and even commendable in some ways. One of the things that really irks me though are comments like, "If you are silent, then you are part of the problem" or "I don't want to see your meme of a black person and a cop hugging. This is indefensible. Look at your post. Look at yourself. If you are not fighting for the right of a child to play in the park, of a man to reach for his license, then you are on the wrong side". It's all or nothing for a lot of people with absolutely no room for nuance, middle ground, or even understanding.
For the record I have never, not once posted anything political, controversial, or belittling on any of my social media sites. For me, those places are a way to stay connected to family and friends across the country and world, connect to a professional community for writing and publishing, and to stay informed about things that I am interested in. (ie adoption, religion/non-religion, world news, literacy, etc.) I am even super careful about what I like on Facebook since I know people can see things you like. I am a big supporter of Bernie Sanders. I like him a lot. I voted for him in the primaries. And I haven't posted a single thing about him. In fact, this may be the first place online I have mentioned that I even like the guy. I just don't feel the need to express that love online.
Other things I don't do:
Change my profile picture to a flag to support whatever people have been hurt recently
Change my profile picture of an animal because someone is trying to "fill Facebook with animal pictures"
Reply to controversial comments no matter how much they bother me
Post news stories or videos that would upset people or that children' shouldn't see
Write a rant about whatever controversial topic is happening right now
Write a rant telling everyone who isn't on my side that they are on the "wrong side"
Here's something else I don't do that seems to bother a lot of people. I don't protest. I will never protest. I have a number of good reasons for this:
1. Motives vs Tactics. Even though I may agree with your motives and movement, I do not agree with the way many protests are done. Blocking traffic? Marching on the highway? Illegally occupying a building? Yelling at counter-protesters and cops? These are things I am not okay with nor would I ever do it. I don't want to march down the street chanting some phrase that some community activist came up with. What if I don't agree with the chant? What if I don't like yelling? (For the record: I don't yell. About anything)
2. Arrests. I do not want to be arrested. Not only do I not want a police record, but I am in the middle of an adoption process. We had to go through three different security and background checks. If I have a record, my adoption will be at risk. I don't think I can change the world, but I do know that if I adopt, I can change the world for that child.
3. Cynical by Nature. I don't actually think I can do anything. I know that is cynical, but it is true. I don't think that marching to the State House or through the streets of my city is going to do a god-damned thing. I think the issues we are dealing with are multi-faceted and more than any one person or group can deal with. I am not a police officer nor do I work with any, so my chances of being able to internally make necessary changes is zil. I can't fix the gun problem we have in this country. I can't go back in time and force white Americans not to own slaves or to treat black people better once they were freed. I also can't force people now to look at their own internal subconscious biases and work against them. I am not black, so there is no way to make inroads in that community. I am not friends with racists and publicly shame people who show even an inkling of bias. My family has always been extremely accepting of all ethnicities and cultures. I myself am interested in bettering myself and so I have read many books, taken classes, was part of a racial reconciliation committee while in college, and have always sought out communities that are multi-ethnic. Be the change you want to see in the world, is a popular quote. So I did. That's all I can do. I can't make other people change. If social media has taught me anything, it is that you cannot change other people's minds about anything.
4. Conflict of Interest. My husband was a cop for nearly a decade. He is one of the most honest, caring people I know, with a deep sense of right and wrong. He is also a good source of information concerning the hows and whys of policing. Yesterday I learned about how Internal Investigations work. For the record: Internal investigators are NOT friends with cops. When my husband started to get too friendly with one, he was called into the office and told that no one would talk to him anymore if he kept talking to them. I didn't know that. Apparently, there are a lot of people who don't know it either and have never bothered to ask. My husband never fired his gun while on duty, but readily admits that there were times that he beat the shit out of people. He always felt justified in doing so although he is sure that the criminal he was dealing with would probably disagree. I know my husband to be a man of integrity. He has not hurt anyone since the day he gave up his badge. Yet our society wants to paint him and others like him as power-hungry racist abusers with an authority complex. "They forget that we are humans too," my husband said the other day. "Cops aren't free of fear. We got scared. It's just that we were taught to still do our jobs, to still run into danger, even when everything in you tells you to turn and run." So marching in some protest shouting at police officers really really bothers me and would probably create a rift in my marriage.
5. Violence. In the past few years, there have been a lot of protests and there have been quite a few that have gone from peaceful to violent in seconds. All it takes is one person with a gun, a group of teens with glass bottles, an angry protester with a real hatred of cops, and things turn ugly fast. I will not risk being a part of that. The cause may be just, but the minute you start to put other people's lives in danger, your cause has been tarnished by violence.
6. Skin Color. I am white. I have been told by many people in the #BlackLivesMatter movement that not only can I not understand, but I also don't really have a dog in this fight. I am told I should be an advocate, but only if I agree fully and completely, otherwise I am with "them", the enemy. If I am not for you, then I am against you. Do you really think with all that rhetoric, that I would feel comfortable or safe marching on the street? I don't even feel comfortable posting things on Facebook because I am not entirely sure what I am "allowed" to say. If you insist that this is not my battle to fight, but turn around and tell me that if I don't fight with you then I am as bad as the racists, you can bet this non-combative white woman is just going to fade into the sidelines like the spectator you clearly wanted me to be.
7. Not a United Front. Finally, the problem with many of these movements if that there isn't a united front. Are we or aren't we mad at police? What are we demanding here? Are you seriously suggesting that cops should just stop doing their jobs? Or are you just asking for some more transparency and better training? Are we really assuming that every cop is a racist power-hungry thug, who look for opportunities to hurt people? Yesterday, a co-worker posted an "article" encouraging people not to call the police in emergency situations. Are you fucking kidding me?! I cannot get behind that. That is a TERRIBLE idea. Another "friend" believes that we should just disarm cops. I cannot get behind that either, not unless we make guns a rare commodity in this country, which is never going to happen. I think part of the issue is that we pay police officers like shit, but somehow expect the creme of the crop. As if our best men and women are actually going to sign up to get paid $36000 a year. (that was what my husband made...and the main reason why he quit). These officers are having to work two and three jobs to make ends meat. The pressure is immense and frankly, from a civilian standpoint, I don't understand why anyone would sign up for such a thankless job. Nope. I'm not marching beside you when I am not even sure what it is we are marching for or against.
I want police shootings and excessive force incidents to tick down to almost nothing. I want black men and women to be able to drive down the street without fear of being pulled over for no other reason than because their skin is dark. I want police officers to not get itchy trigger fingers around those same black people. I want better understanding of police and the law from the general public. I want police officers to be paid more so that better candidates are attracted to the profession. I want black people to be attracted to that profession. I want to live in a country in which we don't assume that someone is racist anytime something happens to a person of color. I want to live in a country where our police officers don't have to worry about being shot at a routine traffic stop thus decreasing their anxiety when making traffic stops. I want our justice system to change. I want all people to receive the same treatment in our justice system. I want our jails to not be full of black people. I want our jails to not be full of black people who committed the same crimes as white people, but their white counterparts are just on probation. I want black parents to not have to teach their children to be wary of police. I want white parents to teach their children not to be wary of black people.
And none of those things is going to happen in a protest.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.