Here is a fact that is going to sound a lot like an opinion: If Betty Shelby was not a police officer, we would have more than enough evidence to give her a life sentence. Here is a fact that is going to sound a lot like premature pessimism: She will walk free and with minimal consequences. Here is a fact that is going to sound a lot like a broken record: White people just do not get it. Finally, here is a fact that you need to know while you read this: I am white.
I have tried to defend police officers in the confines of my comfortable world and in many cases, I do still feel as though some shootings of black individuals are justified based only on the notion that I would have done the same thing under the circumstances. In fact, it is true that most black people do not empathize with the police any more than most white people empathize with black people. Police officers do fear for their lives and civilians should not enhance that fear. However, while part of Milwaukee was torn to shambles unrightfully after a black cop killed a black man within reason, the black people I know did not argue that Sylville Smith should not have been shot. If white people are going to claim it is unfair to judge police based off of a few bad apples, then it is only appropriate to not point fingers at looters and rioters and say “see there- they are like that.” The fact of the matter is the black people I know are upset about injustice, not about warranted self-defense.
Answer me something- if your spouse was shot and left behind only their reflection in the four kids you had together, how would you feel about the footage you saw? Would you still say they should have followed instructions then? Would you pop off at the mouth that there must be more to the tape or that they had a dark past? No! I watched Charles Kinsey get shot with his hands up while lying on the ground next to his patient, and I’ve seen people convicted quickly with much less evidence available than in the case of Betty Shelby. The problem is not that black people need to learn to obey orders. The problem is that white people think the case is closed when they don’t entirely. It has been a while since I have interacted with a police officer, but I will always remember the feeling the times that I have. That nervousness, panic and worry, I’d imagine, would only be escalated if my skin was a different color. All of a sudden following orders, after what I have seen, seems much easier said than done. I would not want to be black and pulled over right now.
I have tried to resist a truth that is undeniable before us. I have countered the argument that there are more white people in the United States than black people, thus explaining why almost as many whites are killed by the police than blacks, with an argument of my own that it is not about total population, but rather about total interactions, and statistics show that there are more interactions with cops and blacks than cops and whites. There is one flaw with that stance, though- the same one I stressed earlier: The black people I know are not upset about warranted self-defense. They are upset about injustice. The only police officers who have killed a black individual and landed themselves in jail are the ones where even Ray Charles would say “yes, this one seems pretty clear to me.” When ambiguity exists in a civilian’s case, the police are able to put the puzzle pieces together and lay down the hammer. When ambiguity exists in a police officer’s case, mysteriously the model to go by is missing. Even more peculiar is that any outsider can figure out what the justice system cannot- that sometimes cops are guilty.
But that is not what this piece is about, is it? I’m sure that black people are frustrated that it is now 2016 and they are still not protected by all protectors. Most? Yes. All? No. And unfortunately for those who wear the badge, zero is the only margin of error we the people are willing to accept. Or is it? That is what this blog is actually discussing- the fact that white people are on megaphones about Colin Kaepernick, but mice about Terence Crutcher. I disagree with Kaepernick’s actions (I agree with his motive). I’m fine with him raising his arm during the anthem like others are doing, but I believe he should stand on his own two feet because to me, whether he says he means no disrespect to our military or not, people of all races have died, are dying, and will continue to die just as inexplicably as the individuals he is kneeling for. Black people may not agree with my views on that, but that’s the thing- we don’t have to agree on every single aspect of every single topic. We just have to take our race aside and understand that Terence Crutcher lost his life over a stalled vehicle, and that is not acceptable and should not be acceptable to anyone.
Furthermore, I would hope those reading this would respect that, with me on my opinion or not, I am just as vocal when whites are in the wrong as I am when they have a valid defense. It is called having a mind of my own free of bias, and it allows me to view each situation as it is rather than how my same-colored peers want me to feel about it. Really, all races could stand to have the same approach of moral reasoning.
So, while it may be unpopular to my fellow whites, with all due respect, I’m going to be loud on what I believe to be wrong. I’m going to be blunt- if the first words out of your mouth after watching Terence Crutcher shot to death are “he should have listened to them. They were pointing a gun at him,” I’m going to call you heartless. Would listening have saved his life? Probably, but even that’s debatable these days. The better question to ask is “as a human-being, do I believe this man should have been killed?” If the answer for you is yes, then you can quit reading now. You have nothing to add to the table of meaningful conversation I haven’t heard before out of an entitled soul. But, if your answer is no and you really mean it, here is what you should do: Voice it. Add to the progress and defeat the division. We cannot leave black people alone in their efforts for a reason as simply put as…they are people. They are with us.
Unfortunately, if this exact same blog were written by a black man, it would be dismissed immediately by the white majority as “complaining and whining.” Since I, a white man, wrote it- what is there to say now? It is not okay that people are dying for absolutely no fathomable reason. What’s worse, it is not okay that white people are silent when the facts are unfavorable to a white cop. If change is going to happen, and believe it or not it could, it is going to have to start with the sixty-three percent of individuals in this nation (whites) being honest with themselves and saying “these people do not deserve this.” I’ll start that up. Will you join me?
To My Girlfriend of One Year,
While a year of dating may be a minor celebration for most, for me it is a milestone worth rejuvenating over. I haven’t had the best of luck on the dating scene, and even when my relationships did become lengthy, my desire to stay did not. I’ve never done so much in such little time. I’ve never been as excited for what is to come as I am now.
In 365 days, we’ve gone to Charleston twice. The first visit there, I shared a moment with you I am positive I will never forget. Holding onto an umbrella at night at the beach with light mist and no one else there, I asked you to be my girlfriend. Since that day, I’ve felt a sensation of exuberance beyond comparison. Two months later we traveled around the nation. We started with a Lana Del Ray concert in Charlotte, made our way north to catch a Tigers game in Detroit, headed west to explore Chicago and St. Louis, and later relaxed and revived ourselves in Kansas with tomato beers and an awesome tour (with an equally awesome guide in Tanner Knowland). From there we strolled through the Rockies of ‘Rado ;) …and we marveled at the magnificence of The Grand Canyon.. I’ve never told you this, but easily my favorite part was when I took a picture of you leaning over a rail and taking in the scene. I’ve never seen so much beauty and perfection in merely one photograph. As breathtaking as the canyons were all the way down to the river, you made it just as difficult to inhale, as you are both creations only our Father could draw up.
When we arrived home and were out of money and thrills, I wondered if we’d continue on finding adventure. Ten months later, I have my answer. We haven’t stopped finding happiness in each other and exhilaration together.
We’ve hiked regularly. We’ve worked out consistently and met goals. We’ve read one-third of the bible, prayed over each other, attended church week after week, and got baptized. We’ve grown closer to God and deeply in love in doing so. We stuck with our desire to see new places in taking in New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. In fifty-two weeks, we’ve stepped foot in twenty-six states. I don’t know if you’re aware of this or not, but there’s still plenty more left and that excites me. You’ve inspired me to complete a romance novel I’m proud of. I’ve inspired you to expand your opportunities. We’ve both inspired the other to live each day with the kindest of hearts. I try to do my best to make you smile as much as possible every chance I get, and you succeed constantly in doing just that for me.
Not everything has gone our way, though. Apparently, it is impossible to be on a home loan when your student loan debt is as high as the house itself, and total loss accidents and issues with dogs getting loose from iron fences aren’t ideal either. A flat tire last month wasn’t to my pleasing, and parking tickets in D.C. took a little bit away from an otherwise wonderful experience. Still, we’ve taken every punch with God by our side and have done a great job of recognizing that this is the best thing we will ever have on this earth…ever. With that, nothing can keep us down. There is nobody else I’d rather take to my family’s weird, Grammy-themed Christmas parties, and I’m assuming I’m your favorite companion to bring on your family outings in the Sapphire Valley mountains. We are truly best friends and I love it.
So in the end, I’m thinking this: If people don’t believe one year is momentous enough to celebrate…maybe they’re just not doing it right…because I couldn’t be more enthused to tell you I’m happy we’ve landed at this point, nor could I be more ecstatic for the joyful years to come. And if all we ever do is wander around for the rest of our lives, we’ll never be lost because we’ve already reached the destination we’ve longed for. We are right where we are meant to be regardless of where we go. I love you and I love us. That will never change…not in any other city, not in any other state, not in any other country or continent or planet for that matter. I love you everywhere. Everywhere and forever.
Happy One Year, Michelle,
In 2005, the Terri Schiavo case was all over the news. For anyone who doesn’t know, Terri went into cardiac arrest in 1990 and suffered massive brain damage. She was left comatose and eventually remained in what is called a persistent vegetative state. In other words, she was on a feeding tube and had little quality of life. After fifteen years of routine, her husband was ready to take her off of that feeding tube, arguing that Terri would not have wanted to live life this way. Her parents disagreed. I remember sitting in class and being asked a blunt question by our teacher: What side would you be on if she was your loved one?
In 2005, I was much different than I am now. I come to that conclusion often, but I have never acknowledged it with quite this much capacity. My answer back then was largely against the grain. I’d say about 90% of the class agreed with the husband in the given scenario. I disagreed and voiced my opinion loudly and proudly. I suggested that I believe in miracles. I questioned back with what ifs. What if, with all of this technology, Terri’s state could be reversible? What if God sent someone to perform something beyond belief? What if there was hope? You see, I was a true Christian back then. I was all in for God and I had an imagination that rivaled a five-year-old’s, which is good to have. We have all learned over time that for the majority of us, responsibilities take away our adventure, rules separate us from freedom, and the world pulls us away from our tight grip on faith. These deductions have never been truer from where I stand.
Fast forward to 2015. Without this case originally coming to mind, my girlfriend and I were talking about children born into a vegetative state. Like my teacher ten years ago, she brought up a relatively similar debate and asked what I would want to do if my child was born with brain damage and couldn’t respond to what is around him/her. Without hesitation, I said I’d want to see if there was a place he or she could go to where people could provide better care than what we could. Really? REALLY?!?! Had those words actually come out of my mouth? The same person who definitively defended Terri Schiavo’s parents just one decade ago was now unemotional enough to send his own child somewhere to never be seen again? Wow. It may make you feel better that my girlfriend was not fond of the comment. She opposed it rather aggressively, and appropriately so.
A month later, which was this past Saturday, was my high school reunion. I didn’t go. There were many reasons as to why I wasn’t there, the bigger ones being that my girlfriend’s parents had my folks over for dinner and I was too broke to go out with my old classmates anyway. But, there was a part of me that didn’t want to attend because…I don’t even know who I am anymore. How could I expect my graduating class to recognize me?
I had come from attending church regularly and feeling the Holy Spirit with me each and every time, to attending church recurrently and telling my girlfriend on the ride home that I’m enjoying the message, but I’m just not being dragged into “the light” the way I once remembered. I didn’t want to force it. I’d never want to force a relationship with God. So instead I prayed, and if you’re wondering, I’ve yet to be provided with an answer. That’s okay, though. It will come, and I won’t stop going to church because I know my solutions are there.
But understand this…the main reason why I am writing this blog today: We are different now than what we were even just ten years ago. Time changes us for the worse. Instead of getting sucked into the word at church, we are swallowed whole by the demands of life. Work devours us. Being parents takes its toll. Stresses overwhelm us to the point of wanting to give up. It takes a strong person to fight back and run the right way, but we have to try. And, if it makes you feel better, we are never fighting this battle alone. We have to try to live like our children, who are much more innocent, much more persistent, much more imaginative, and much more wholesome than we are. Why? Because all of those traits are the epitome of what it means to live like Jesus, and living like Jesus will bring you back to the old, better you.
I haven't reached the house of God yet, but amidst a forest of destruction, disaster, and demons, I feel I've found the path which leads to it. I'd know the difference between good and evil. I've been both. And while there are exceptions and I can name plenty of people who are not entirely in love with God, or who do not even believe in Him, who are great and sweet human-beings, I'd argue that the majority of Christ-followers get it more right in terms of decency and compassion comparatively. That is not a bash at all. In fact, I find it off-putting when I see bible holders standing on a block of cement for leverage downtown. Their position hovering over the crowd personifies perfectly the notion that they believe they are better than everyone else. Those people are not at all who this blog is about. A real Christian doesn't shame people to bring them closer to the Lord. Instead, he shows them the greatest amount of respect, love, and honor possible to display what being a child of God is really like. And he doesn't do it because he has to. He does it because he wants to. Those are the men I'm referring to. Those are the men the ladies should have eyes for.
When I drank, at times I became angry. When I acted childish, I embarrassed myself and those around me. When I cussed, I put my best friend, a devout Christian, in the awkward situation of staying or going. When I was not someone who God was proud of, I was not someone who a woman would be proud to be with. And, not to point a finger or blame it on someone else, but when I was far from Him, I was far from an expert on choosing someone good for me. A relationship can be powerful without God, but with Him, it can be indestructible. Not even Lucifer can break the barrier of Christ-like love, and I won't even harp on how it all strengthens when you love your neighbors as you do yourself or your partner or family or inner-circle. Satan hates love unless that love is for the things of this world; things that do not matter in the grand scheme of things. Eventually, I grew tired of finding girls who went to clubs as much as me, drank as much as me, partied as much as me, and slept in on Sundays the way I did. I realized that as unappealing as those girls were to me, I was likely equally as unappealing to them.
Then God came along. He taught me what to look for. He taught me where to find it. He taught me how to go about things. But most importantly, He taught me how to love in His image. I may not always get it right, but at least I have the proper playbook this time. I'm sure of that because I am now executing and winning. I am not thinking internally that I should break up with the one I'm with the way I used to. Rather, I am thinking of new and better ways we can grow as a couple through our Savior. For years I have envied people for what they have. After wrapping my brain around it all repeatedly over time, I've determined that, while there are people who last who aren't necessarily on the right track, the ones I see last and do so ecstatically are doing the following: Praying, Reading, Attending, and Yelling. Notice that the acronym itself spells out pray, as we should do often. Like, a lot. These couples are praying together three times a day, reading the word together just as often, attending church regularly, and yelling in excitement for what God does in their lives daily. The people who get it right are Christians: caring, compassionate Christians.
The man of your dreams isn't at City Tavern drinking a Tiger in the Tank. He's not giving you a thoughtless pickup line on Tinder. He's not posting selfies of his body on Facebook, and he's surely not worried about sex when he first meets you. I know this isn't the man of your dreams because I used to be that man, and I shouldn't have been desirable. No. The man of your dreams has yet to be revealed to you. When you find God, he'll find you. That's cliche, but it is a promise none-the-less. He's in the church band and his heart melts for God with every lyric. He's in the crowd with his hands up in praise and will not be distracted. He's welcoming you into the doors of God's house, and he's just as polite on Sundays as he is on every day that ends in "Y." Why? Because he loves God dearly, and he's capable of loving you almost as much.