I was asked to share my perspective on last week’s events in our home group last night. My emotions and thoughts have been a big jumbled mess in my head and heart, and my words fell short of conveying how, as a police wife and a white woman, I want to help bridge the gap of racism in this country. I feel like my words last night ended up being just about the injustice of police officers. And as strongly as I do feel about that subject, the world does not need more one sided opinions on injustice. Thankfully I shared those raw emotions in a room of people who know my heart and didn’t leave me feeling judged for having a shallow vision of the much bigger picture of what this is about. Which is race. I came home to write it out. Because I write better than I speak. What I’ve written below is me processing these emotions and sharing a lot of pent up feelings. Some of it will be offensive, I have no doubt. Some of it is selfish. And much of it is very narrow minded. I’m working on thinking differently. At the end you’ll see where I’m back peddling a little bit and trying to refocus the post on what I really wanted to write about. I wrote it all out, and then I started feeling like I needed to trash all of it and start over. I’m going to leave it knowing I have very few readers and almost all of you know me personally. Take it for what it is. A few rants. A desire for police to be widely respected (not just after they’re killed). And a white Christian woman’s attempt at changing racial thinking habits.
Wesley and I were out of town last week when we heard that not just one, but two black men had been killed by police in less than 48 hours. I know that’s a tragedy for the individual and that family. But it’s also a tragedy for the entire police community. Here’s what I think the rest of the world assumes at hearing this news (no matter your race)- another hyper vigilant police officer flexing his authority, jumping to conclusions, abusing his power and using unnecessary force in a completely bogus situation in which race OBVIOUSLY played a factor.
My reaction receiving that kind of news- how is the officer and his family doing?
I am well aware of my ignorance, my naivety, and my white privilege. In fact, I have never in my life been more aware of these things. So maybe I’m way off here, but I just cannot imagine a scenario where a black man is approached by police and the situation ends with the brutal killing of that black man based solely on his skin color. The situation I envision when I hear of these horrific incidents is how badly out of control everything must have felt for the officer/s to get to the point where they have to choose, ‘his life or mine’.
What an awful, burdensome, dark decision. The decision to end a life. Every officer is prepared to do it; I do not believe any worthwhile officer ever, ever hopes that’s part of their career. (notice me not bringing up the specifics of either shooting. I refuse to do that. I’m not the one being asked to make the judgement call on ‘fair’ or ‘unfair’, ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. Those officers will answer for their actions.)
I think of the wife at home that gets the phone call that her husband has killed someone on duty. What must that feel like? What a nightmare when it turns into a national headline. Life for that family is over as they know it. Most likely that officer’s career is over. Most likely they have to move due to threats and hate crimes. I put myself in the shoes of that family- seeing my husband slandered in the headlines, watching him struggle through the trials and interviews, having my children’s lives threatened, feeling forced out of my community. Then, psychologically, having to deal with the emotional fallout from taking a life. My husband has chosen this job of civil service. He serves the community for the greater good. He is the man standing between us and the darkness. And to have that community hate him, hate us, want us murdered in return…it’s a reality I know can happen, but that I am not at all prepared for.
Maybe that sounds melodramatic and you’re sitting there kinda rolling your eyes at my hypothetic misfortune. After all, we chose this life. Black lives, the ones that feel ostracized, cast out, and less than, they did not choose their lives. We have chosen to stand here as a family and support our daddy and husband even if the world won’t. I do realize therein lies some of the backlash. Many, many more have not chosen to be hated and do not understand why they’re not accepted as an individual, or as a culture. It’s much harder to sympathize with those choosing to wear the gun on their belts, even if they are largely unappreciated, than to hurt over the man that fought back because that’s all he’s ever known.
I’m not exactly sure why the racism of this country lands squarely on the shoulders of white police officers. Have you noticed that? Do you hear the stories of the ignorance and stupidity and outright abuse of white police officers as often as I do? If there’s a story about racism, it will involve a police officer. Because, somehow (mysteriously to me), racism in this country has seemingly turned into a police initiated activity. From what you hear, they straight up provoke people of color- any and all of them. From what you hear, white guys everywhere are signing up for the police academy to get their white supremacy kicks. There’s terrible officers out there. There really are, and that’s a travesty for those that come in contact with them. But guess who hates that more than you? Their fellow officers. Just like one awful human can create a stereotype for a people group, it happens in law enforcement all the more. For who else is watched, and analyzed, and filmed, and spit on, and endangered, and hated more than law enforcement?
Right now what I want to do is defend police officers everywhere and rattle off a long and thorough list of the good they do, and the stories that don’t make it to headlines. I won’t. I can get really worked up over how unfair the world reacts, and how ridiculous it is to hate the very people that save our lives night after night. It never fails to make my cry when I hear of another police shooting where the officer is immediately and irrevocably guilty long before the full story is known (if it is ever known). If your first assumption about an officer shooting is an immediate “police brutality” mindset, I daresay you’ve never fully thought about what it feels like to make a career out of walking around as a giant target.
The media especially would have us believing that each person approached is innocent and should be handled kindly and gently by police. But to actually be the one approaching a house/car/fight/person/group not knowing what exactly is waiting for you; I think that’s far scarier than any of us believe it could be. That’s the biggest difference in being a police wife and a military wife. In the military there is a common enemy and it’s ok to want them brought down. It’s ok to have strong emotions and reactions when my husband is overseas and his base is being bombed. It’s more than acceptable to ask my husband to pull the trigger if it means he gets to come home. In the police world, that is deplorable.
Allow me to pause here. I had more emotions built up than I thought I did and it’s starting to feel like I’m asking for a lot of sympathy. I want to help people understand the mindset of the police side of things. But not at the sake of creating a bigger rift. Because what happened last week cracked our nation wide open. There is a constant bubbling underneath the surface of our society and that’s never more obvious than when racial issues make headlines. The outcry and pain is immediate and seemingly endless. I do not want to add to the pointing of fingers and harsh language. There’s enough of that.
Last week, what started out as the worst outrage toward police and racial division that I remember, turned into the most surprising and astonishing harmony of people groups that I have ever seen. First there was pain in the African American community- the search for answers and the general feel of being wholly mistreated. Then there was the shocking and horrendous ambush of the Dallas officers. Somehow that equaled the scales and allowed both “sides” to better understand the hurt of the other. Now, both are feeling lost, confused, hurt, and misunderstood together. It’s unmistakeable the Lord used tragedy for His glory.
What I want to do here in this space, and in my own heart, is to not create an even bigger “us vs. them” mentality. Like I said above, my immediate reaction to these news stories is to side with the police and offer them the benefit of the doubt. It’s not a stretch of the imagination to think other people are doing the same thing for the flip side of the coin. As an admission of a personal struggle- I often have trouble with sympathy or empathy for the victim. I can, and do, feel broken for the families of the victims. For the victims themselves, I honestly do have trouble standing up for them and attempting to be their voice. I feel as if that would be saying I don’t support police. I don’t know of a way to do both.
Please hear me, this is not because I have trouble liking black people. Please do not equate that statement with how I have trouble empathizing with African Americans. That is not what I’m confessing to you. With my extreme emotions from last week also came the very deep desire for racial reconciliation. More than ever before. I know I’m not alone in that. Our church and our home group feel that same desire and are taking steps to hear the voices from the black community. Black lives do matter. Not “and”, not “but”, just- black lives matter.
I have the emotions and the outcry for the police on lockdown. Now I want to work on hearing and feeling for the black community. I usually feel like I have to choose between the two. I’m so sorry for this. I’m so sorry for who I have unknowingly hurt in the past by such a divided mindset. In fact, this makes me no better than those that abhor police. I don’t hate black people. God knows that isn’t true, and Wesley and I know that it’s likely we will adopt black children (and we love the idea!). The “us vs. them” in my mind is never “police vs. blacks” (more so, us vs. the very, very outspoken people groups raging against the police, and the media that relentlessly tells the worst stories about them) but that can be a subconscious by-product of even entertaining the idea of “us vs. them”.
There is a reason for our black brothers and sisters to feel an outrage at another police shooting of a black man. I can’t pretend to fully understand why that is, but I’m willing to learn. You don’t see the outrage about other police shootings- white on white, black on black, or multicultural anything. It seems to just be the white on black that has the biggest impact. The media has definitely picked up on this. And simply stated, that has to be because black people in this country still feel a certain sense of injustice. How to go about repairing that is the question of the century. As the church, we have a duty to model the renconcialion we hope to see in the nation. I have no doubt that will be awkward and maybe hurtful for all parties involved, but darn it, we’re jumping in to really try.
Sunday, our pastor warned us about not having such strong opinions toward situations or tragedies like these that we become more concerned with being right, than with being Christ-like. So please don’t takeaway from this post that I’m trying to win you over to the “police side”. I know I ranted a bit earlier, but I do genuinely wish more people understood the police and the decisions they make. I am working on my own heart to not idolize being right.
Another beautiful truth our pastor shared on Sunday is that tragedies on Earth are meant to be the smelling salt to wake us up and remind us that this is not our home. If I’m being honest with you, there has never been a single time in my life where I’ve desired my heavenly home over my earthly one…until this last year. Forcing my eyes open to a myriad of hurts and horrors of this world have left me feeling restless, uncomfortable, sickened, and alienated and I very genuinely cannot. wait. to. go. Home.