What a tough time we're in as a nation. On Facebook, I've posted stuff lately on Black Lives Matter. I've reposted inspiring photos and video about the support my local police, and Dallas police, have received. Any one post...or any five posts...can be polarizing. Now, my own words, summing up where I am:
Regarding law enforcement officers:
Many law enforcement officers and families speak out about how frightening it is when they or their loved one puts on a badge and heads out of the house. Law enforcement officers and families, I BELIEVE YOU. You risk yourself for us--for me! I SUPPORT YOU. When I haven't been vocal enough about this, I'm sorry. You put up with a lot of crap on the streets, and I want to combat that by supporting you publicly and privately.
I think the vast majority of law enforcement officers want to protect every innocent person in their jurisdiction, and want to get criminals apprehended as safely as possible. I wouldn't have the fortitude to make the split-second decisions they make--and I'm glad they have that fortitude.
Regarding the black community and Black Lives Matter advocates:
Many black people speak out about how frightening it is to get pulled over by law enforcement, how degrading it is to be followed around by store security, and more. Members of the black community, I BELIEVE YOU. We're a country that has been broken by racism for generations, and it doesn't go away just because most of us want it to. I SUPPORT YOU. When I haven't been vocal enough about this (which has been most of my life), I'm sorry. You put up with discrimination that I'm often totally unaware of, and I want to combat that by supporting you publicly and privately.
I think that the vast majority of Black Lives Matter protesters want to protest in a way that is meaningful, peaceful, and affects change.
How does this all fit together?
I can support the vast majority of law enforcement and the vast majority of Black Lives Matter advocates because of this:
I believe only a tiny minority of Americans are so racist as to purposefully target people of color. But I also believe that nearly all of us (myself included, without doubt) hold stereotypes that have been honed over generations. Many of these stereotypes are subconscious, but still affect our actions.
Whether we're children's pastors (yep...that's me) or store clerks or servers or lawyers or electricians or construction workers or nurses or teachers or doctors, or yes, law enforcement officers--whatever the color of our skin is, chances are, we aren't treating everyone equally, despite (in most cases) our very good intentions! So if we're going to work on these problems--this antagonism towards police, this racial discrimination--we have to do it by stepping down from pedestals. This isn't a problem with "them" (whoever "them" is)--it's a problem with us.
I support law enforcement. Sometimes individuals in that community get it wrong. Sometimes we all do.
I support Black Lives Matter. Sometimes individuals in that movement get it wrong. Sometimes we all do.
We've got to listen when police officers are angry because they feel mistrusted and mistreated. We've got to listen when black people are angry because they feel judged and discriminated against. We've ALL got to examine ugly stuff from generations past and generations NOW. We've got to start from love, or else we end in violence.
And it starts with me.