I remember when I first started hanging with Dave, when we were teenagers in high school. We did drama together at our school, and we were a bit taken with each other, in that way that you can be in the orbit of a person, unable to break free of their gravitational force yet unable to crash land onto their surface, either.
We were standing under a street lamp across the street from the school’s theater building on Coulter Street. There was no smoking on campus, and Dave smoked, he still does, he loves it even though it’s poison. We stood under the street lamp, me looking up at him, him exhaling in the our corner of the darkness. Smoke played between us.
We didn’t speak about anything that was present, like the show we were doing, my life that I was rebuilding, his life that was in free fall, this orbit we couldn’t break free of.
Instead Dave told me about police brutality, wrongful arrests, the MOVE 9, Mumia Abu Jamal, the Egg Man, and for real institutionalized racism. I didn’t know about Jim Crow, I didn’t know civil rights was still divisive, I didn’t know about white privilege.
I didn’t know about that stuff. I thought it was in the past, made up, just for the movies. I was incredulous. He presented data, including first hand accounts from his mother, a criminal defence attorney. It became clear to me like a slap in the face that our justice system is not a valley of sun flowers and cupcakes where the innocent are always set free. Moreover, it seemed clear that the justice meted out by our justice system, and the laws that are enforced by our law enforcement officers, are enforced differently, depending on a person’s skin color, economic or ethnic background, and assumptions made about a person based on those criteria.
It was like my whole self was physically turned so that I could see through an open door I’d never known was there, a door that opened into a blinding artificial light.
Human history is too short for anything to really be behind us.
It’s all right here. Unjust laws, wrongful arrest, oppression, slavery, are all part of what people experience every day. Life is brutal.
And I’m realizing, as I see my son interacting, I can’t protect him from it. I want to show my son what it is to have a loving heart, so that he’s never overcome with the anxiety and fear that turn us into scared, violent, animals.
Don’t go out there and shoot people C.
Be mindful and respectful of all the people around us. Treat others as you would like to be treated, in every moment, in every instance, with every individual, no matter what. Think before you act.
Open your heart. Feel God’s love. Give it away to everyone you see.