Thursday, July 7, 2016

the dreaded-ed topic.

I’ve debated writing this blog for a long time. And maybe it’s the reason I haven’t written a blog at all in over a year; because I feel like I haven’t had anything worthwhile to say. And because when I have, I’ve been too afraid to say it.

But, honestly, nothing scares me more than the things that have been happening in our world lately. These past few days, I’ve been reading — and seeing — some terrifying things. And I’ve been reading some equally terrifying things on Facebook. (Ugh. Facebook.) So. I’m going to talk about the dreaded topic: RACE.

Before I go in to this conversation, let me start with my background. I’m half white and half Mexican. (Yes. My maiden name is Martinez and it is Mexican.) I grew up in, arguably, one of the most diverse areas in the United States. I grew up surrounded by pretty much every racial background you can think of. Seeing faces of different colors was normal; I thought that’s what the world was. I remember singing songs about the melting pot and all the colors of the children and everything, and it was just ASSUMED that the people I was surrounded with were just…people. 

I’ve never really encountered racism. The biggest thing I remember was when my sister played soccer and was on team with mostly Latina girls. They were playing a team of mostly white girls and my sister said after the game that some of the girls were calling them wetbacks. But, even in my Catholic high school bubble, I didn’t encounter racism first-hand. I was still surrounded by people of all different backgrounds. College. Even graduate school. 

When the Black Lives Matter movement started, I was one of those people screaming, “All Lives Matter!”, not even knowing what it really meant or what Black Lives Matter really meant. I argued with a lot of people on Facebook. I argued as best as I could to make this idea that people died at the hands of cops for any reason but because of what they looked like truth. I read the comments section of article after article until one or two in the morning and while a lot of people infuriated me and a lot of people made me question our educational system and a lot of people just really upset me, I learned a lot.

I learned that even in the Bay Area, people still encounter racism. People of color get pulled over by cops more. People of color are more likely to be incarcerated and to be shot by police. People of color are scared of cops in ways light-skinned people are not. People of color fear for the lives of their dark children. 

I watch (parts of the video because I couldn’t stomach seeing anything more than that) a video of a black man being pinned down by two large officers and still being shot. I read about a cop shooting a man in a car after he asked for his ID and later the man let the officer know he had a gun. And being shot with his CHILD in the backseat. I read about 11 cops being shot by snipers and 4 of them dying because, apparently, the answer to these killings is by killing. 

And I read people on one end of the spectrum crying and pleading for people to acknowledge that racism is prevalent and to not just think, “Oh, well I have black friends and don’t hate black people so it doesn’t exist.” Or think, “Oh, well white people get killed by cops, too, and so did this Mexican guy I knew, so it’s not just black people.”

And I read people on the other end of the spectrum that cry that Blue Lives Matter. That not all cops are bad and that there are a lot of good cops out there who wanted to be cops to protect people from violence and injustice. 

And my question is, why can’t both be true?

I believe that Black lives do matter. I believe there is a problem systematically in a lot of police forces, and I don’t just mean violence against people of color. There is a power problem in this country with some cops; the good ‘ole boys club that is only concerned with looking out for each other. I believe there are some cops that, even if they came into the job with good intentions, now feel the power their job holds and abuses said power. Or people who were cops solely to have the power over other people. People underestimate what power can do to a person; it can take over. It can make you feel untouchable and unstoppable. 

But, I also believe there are good, true cops out there. A lot of them. I know some of them, inside and out of the force. There are cops that play by the rules, that go by the book, that want only good outcomes and never ever want (or have had to) fire their weapons. Cops that police because they want their communities to be safer and to be better.

I believe the biggest problem our country is facing is the division I see. The political divisions, the divisions between white and black (or white and any other non-white race), the divisions between “us” and “them”. We spend so much time fighting with each other, pushing our own agendas, clinging to our beliefs, that we don’t LISTEN. We don’t hear those that are crying out for empathy, for love, for answers, for CHANGE. We hear what we want and we’re comfortable in what we think is the truth. We don’t read. We don’t educate ourselves. We don’t want to talk about things. We want to fight. We want to bury our heads in the sand, tell ourselves that this doesn’t affect ME, and to carry on with our tiny little lives.

I’ve learned a lot in the past year. Oddly enough from Facebook. My view of the world has changed. I now know that even if I don’t fully understand or know what it’s like to feel targeted or feel like I need to live life differently, I can still have empathy and not shut down those that do feel like that. I’ve learned that this is a very, very real problem. And what is happening now, on both ends, is horrifying. It literally scares me. It makes me question my desire to have children. It makes me afraid for my nieces. It makes me scared for the cops I know who love their job and who go out every night risking their lives for their communities. I makes me afraid for the friends I know that have children of color and for the future we are setting them up for.

This is what I know. We can hashtag all we want. We can share articles all we want. But, what really needs to happen is that we all need to shut up and hear each other. To talk and not to argue. To read from credible sources (I’ve found that if an article isn’t from a credible, non-biased source, I rarely even read it). To step outside of our personal bubbles and try to see life and hear life from someone else’s mouth. To do our best to not judge what we see and what we hear, but instead to understand that everyone is SOMEONE. 

I’m by no means super educated on this topic. I didn’t write this because I feel like I have some sort of qualification or insight that someone else doesn’t. I wrote this because I feel like everyone I know needs to hear this, needs to accept this, and needs to start trying to understand those around them.

My only hope for this blog post? That people will start sharing their knowledge, that people will start listening, and people will start doing the only thing I personally know and can do to change this: to love each other, to strive to see the best in people, to help people, to listen to people. And to spread love.