Thursday, August 21, 2014




This is a long story.

First, I was a child of the 50s and 60s, the most turbulent times in recent American history.  The television screen was constantly filled with images of rebellion and violence.  But I was blissful in the ignorance of my youth and disinterested as I was to remain throughout the Viet Nam war and onward into adulthood.

What I DO remember, however, are the images shown in my own household.  Those were images as ugly as the images on the TV screen.  I remember my father ranting at the TV, using ugly language and declaring that if THEY “would only act like us, talk like us and be quiet” everything would be OK.  And I’ll admit this, I bought into it because don’t most of us buy into what our parents are selling?

The truly horrifying part of this is that my father was a high school teacher in a predominately minority school and as much as I’d like to believe that he treated all his students equally I can no longer support that fantasy.  He’s long gone and I’m happy that he took his hatred with him.


I was raised in a time when there were four, only four, sources of information:  The daily newspaper; ABC, CBS, and NBC.  Uncle Walter (Cronkite) spoke the truth, the gospel, no need to look further.  What I didn’t know was how tightly controlled content was by the government and the executives of the media.

Recently CNN aired a series about the 60s that put my vision of that era in an entirely new perspective.  Episode 5 “The Long March to Freedom” was a revelation.  Here were all those images again but this time I was viewing them as an adult and with opinions of my own.  I was ashamed.  Mortally ashamed.  I wanted to weep.  The ugliness in the faces was the same ugliness in the face that I saw daily in my own home as a child.  And it’s the same ugliness that I see in the faces of protesters waving angry signs at immigrant CHILDREN in busses. 

I had a white friend who is now in his 70s who once told me about going to the South to peacefully protest and how he’d been dragged out of his car, beaten and bloodied by the police and arrested.  At the time he told me of this I was still in that self-absorbed phase but seeing the images again brought home to me how real this hatred was and how corrupt the law enforcement community can be in parts of this country.  How heroic was my friend?  He later became a priest but then left the priesthood and his faith because as he said, “I cannot stand by and watch little children being hurt”.  At the time I had no idea what he was talking about because, you guessed it, there was no information.


I can no longer use the excuse of “not enough information” that I’ve been hiding behind.  We have more information now than we can make use of or process and it’s my responsibility to GO FUCKING FIND IT.  I’ve been telling myself that I can’t make a judgment because I don’t have enough information.

Yet the signs were always in front of me.  I thought the Temptations “Cloud Nine” was a peppy dance  number until I was walking and listening to it recently.  The incarceration of America’s black men for drug charges is a disgrace.  I’m going to come out and say that, as unpopular an opinion as that may be.  It’s time to STOP.  Let’s deal with this problem in some other way.  I don’t pretend to have the answer but as long as the only way to escape the reality of being black in America is Cloud Nine it should not be a crime.
The signs were there, I chose not to see them.  I’m learning more as I age; I learned that we weren’t told the truth.  We got a filtered view of everything.  AND WE STILL DO.

Here are just a few of the things I learned as a young person (this may be uncomfortable for some people and it’s uncomfortable for me to discuss):

1.        Black Studies programs are unnecessary because, hey, there’s NOTHING TO STUDY.

2.        Ebonics is ridiculous.  They should just learn to talk like us. (Hmm, and which dialect of English would that be? Maine, Texas, Louisiana?

3.        Don’t go into the bathroom in school if there are black girls in there, they will beat you up.  Yes, really.  I went to an all-white high school.  Once in a while a black teenager would appear and then a few days later he or she would be gone.  I wonder why? 

4.        Be careful when you go to a football game at Tucson High School, you will get beat up.  (What’s with this beating up stuff?)  My husband attended Tucson High School, one of the few integrated schools and I can assure you that he was beating up and being beaten up by white guys. 

5.       They don’t have anything to be angry about, slavery was not MY fault.  I wasn’t  there, they should just get over it.

If this is what I was being told in an educated home then can you imagine what was and still is going on?


I am married to a law enforcement officer.  I know what a difficult job it is and how dangerous it is.  I cannot speculate about what happened in that car and I am terrified for all the young men and women in law enforcement who may find themselves in a similar situation and do the only thing they think they can to save their lives and end up in prison for it.

I am silent because I do not have enough information to make a judgment.  And that’s no excuse at all because I need to find that information.  I need to dig and find out what the history of law enforcement has been in Ferguson.  I need to know more about the victim and the officer.  I’m sure it’s out there if I look hard enough and if I remove the filters from my eyes and my mind.

We are trained to assume that if there is an encounter with a law enforcement officer, there must be SOME reason and I do believe that for the most part there is but again that’s through my own filter and experience living in the western United States where things are different.  Yes, they are.  I have to admit though that I have no idea whatsoever what it is like to be a young black man in America.


Because I’m afraid.  I am afraid of what people will think of me if I raise my voice.  I have my own minority status that I hide because I am afraid of what people will think of me.  Thank heavens there are people who are not afraid to raise their voices.  Among the bad actors in Ferguson are many brave people who are not afraid.  I hope their voices are heard above the rhetoric and hate.


This morning as I was returning from my walk I passed by the high school children waiting for their busses.  There was a mix of races; the kids seemed relaxed and friendly.  My own children don’t understand racism; they don’t even understand what the fuss is about.  The cycle has been broken.  Not everywhere but in enough places to make a difference. 


I want full disclosure from all sources.  I want every man, woman and child in this country to be treated with dignity and respect.  That is all.  Just that.