Here are the things I was worrying over the other day:
1. The amount of time I could wait before I peed myself as Ryan drove us on a 4 hour commute back from vacation because I didn’t want to have to stop and wake up my kid who was napping in the backseat.
2. If the monarch chrysalises in an aquarium in our kitchen had hatched while we were gone and were slowly starving to death.
3. If you could see my panties through the dress I was wearing because, even though I checked in the mirror the prerequisite amount of times prior to walking out in public in a dress that requires such a step, I kept thinking of that girl I saw the day before in a peach, gauzy number whose high-waisted bikini bottoms made me want to pull her aside, but she appeared to be on a first date and what was she supposed to do with the information at that point anyway?
I flipped through Facebook on my phone in an effort to think of something besides any of the above and my feed was saturated with comments about the shooting of Michael Brown and my brain nearly required a set of neurological jumper cables because I couldn’t shift from my shallow self-absorption to fatal shootings and racial injustice that quickly.
I sat and tried to ignore my bladder for a few miles and watch trees, which was Ryan’s uncertain reply once when I asked him what he was thinking about on a roadtrip. (Like this, “I dunno… Trees?”) I blanked until I could process.
I am white and I live in America so, by unequal and unfair but there-none-the-less rights, I should be the one speaking loudest about inequalities- using these skewed powers for good- but I don’t even know what I should do.
Because I am white, I fear I have blinders on- the kind that make you think that you give everyone a fair shake- but I think the truth is really more along the lines that I am white, I live in a society that continues to lift up white people as the standard from which all other races deviate, and I don’t think it is in any way appropriate to pretend that I have the remotest idea of what it means to be black in that setting.
So when I look at the images of Michael Brown and I see the skin tone of my son, I am horrified. I am not coming from a place from which I can honestly relate to how this has the potential to affect him as he grows. It becomes bigger than who you think did what in Ferguson. As individuals, we have the freedom to make a personal judgement call on who we believe to be guilty or not guilty. What has me worried most for my son is not necessarily specific to the conclusion you drew on this one, traumatic case, but what rationalizations you use to defend it. When we start to use excuses involving petty theft or smoking pot to justify killing someone by shooting them repeatedly, there’s a larger issue at hand.
The overwhelming majority of us will never know all the facts that led to the decisions made by either of the men involved in that shooting. Regardless of who did (or didn’t) do what, I was shaken to my core to read the commentaries attacking Michael’s character flaws, otherwise unrelated to the shooting. You don’t rationalize a life being taken by stating your distaste that he wasn’t as nice of a person as you were initially led to believe by media interviews of those who knew him. We’re all nastier than we’d like to admit; I’d prefer that my eventual demise not be followed up by a listing of some of my bleaker moments in an attempt to prove that the world is actually a better place now without me in it.
I’m not black. I don’t trust my view of racism in the 21st century. I read black commentaries and I listen to black friends because I don’t trust my eyes and so I need to temper my experiences with those who can see in a way that I never will. I can do those things. I can even understand the rationalization of killing someone in self-defense when all of the facts point to this. But I can’t take any more of the petty justifications without the facts. For my son’s sake, I am begging you: please stop grasping at straws to justify killing another black boy. And please stop trusting that eyes housed in a white body are qualified to make unbiased opinions. I have this little boy who will grow up to be an 18 year old someday and I can’t take any more jumping-to-conclusion, condemning fingers pointing at faces that look like his.