A couple of months ago, we showed our kids the movie "Hidden Figures." This movie is about four Black women who worked for NASA in the 1960's and played key roles in the success of their space program. We didn't tell them beforehand that this movie had examples of racism. But, throughout the movie, all four kids (even the 7-year-olds), showed disgust and disbelief that this actually happened. That these women weren't allowed to use the same bathrooms or the same coffeepots as the white people. They kept asking, "Did this really happen?" and, from one 7-year-old, "Why do the white people think they're better than the black people?" All four of them loved the movie, have wanted to watch it over and over again, and have continued to state that the color of our skin doesn't matter. That we're all children of God and important.
So, when last week we told them what had happened in Minnesota, that an unarmed Black man was killed by a policeman, they asked for the details. They wanted to know why. And when told that the man, yes, had done some things wrong, and was being arrested, and that the policeman who was arresting him had kneeled on his neck and killed him, they were sad. They didn't understand. One of the 7-year-olds asked, "Was it because he was black?" They watched the news with us during the protest Saturday night in Salt Lake that turned violent. We explained to them that people are angry, and that while people are angry, if they watched, they would see that the people in charge were, for the most part, advocating for a peaceful protest, and that violence toward police, property, and others is not the ideal way to fix the problem.
They watched video and saw pictures of their grandpa and uncles (who are Mexican and half Mexican), cleaning graffiti off of the walls of the capitol Sunday morning, proud to be cleaning up their city and standing with city officials, though never condoning the actions of the police officers who have killed anyone of any race, without just cause.
We watched with our kids the largely peaceful protest last night, that ended peacefully, with multiple armed police officers shaking hands and putting arms around protestors, protestors reminding the crowd that their purpose was not violence, and earlier, one policeman even kneeling in solidarity. It warmed my heart to see that humans on both sides CAN come together, even though this is far from over. Even though there is much work to be done.
I've seen many comments to the effect that George Floyd deserved to die because he was a criminal. I disagree, with everything inside me. Have you had a child who chose to commit a crime? Have you had a child who made wrong choices? Does that child deserve to die, just because of those choices, at the hands of a would-be arresting officer?
The answer is no. Unequivocally. That is called martial law, and we don't live by that law at this time. We don't take justice into our own hands, police badge or none.
That said, our police officers have every right to defend themselves in the face of harm. I will also defend that right with everything inside me. I appreciate our (law-abiding) police men and women for all the good they do every day. For the courageous way in which they stood ready to protect our city and citizens last night. For the way in which they finally allowed the (equally courageous) protestors-- those who were willing to leave without violence-- to go home. To not arrest them even though they were there an hour and half past the curfew put in place. We have friends who are police officers and I know the fear their families face on even just normal days that aren't filled with rioting in city streets. They should be able to defend themselves.
But that was not the situation with George Floyd. There is reason for the anger. There are many who have been killed unprovoked. This is not simply a case of "a few bad apples." There are too many of them in precincts all around the country. There is much work for our state and federal lawmakers, and police and public safety departments to do.
But there is also much for us as citizens of the United States to do. We must understand what has really happened. We must believe that racism is still prevalent. We must talk to our children about it. We must come together and agree that there IS a problem.
Why should I not recognize and admit that I still have much to learn about the problems that exist for Black people right here in my own community? I have close family and friends who are Black and I love them with all my heart.
I constantly advocate for understanding and love surrounding Latino immigrants-- legally documented and otherwise. I don't believe they deserve to die in the hot sun, in horrible camps that are not even approved for formal refugee use, or at the hands of racist border officers (of which there are many, and yes, many who are also not).
So, if I stand for them, why should I not stand with our Black brothers and sisters?
I do stand with them and their right to ask for fair treatment from police officers, and much more!
If one day my child decides to commit a crime and is arrested on the street, would I hope the arresting officer is law-abiding and doesn't take "justice" into his own hands (or onto his own knees)?
The answer is yes. And if the answer is yes for my child, or your child, or any of our children, the answer is yes for George, regardless of the color of his skin.
We should all ask, as my 7-year-old continues to ask, "Why do they think they're better just because their skin is white?"
When we begin to sincerely ask ourselves this question, about people of any race, then, and only then, will we be able to truly come together and eradicate the hate that is prevalent among us.
As someone I respect and look up to said recently, "May we hope for…the gift of personal dignity for every child of God, unmarred by any form of racial, ethnic, or religious prejudice." (Jeffrey R. Holland)