This White Woman Is Heartbroken Over Sandra Bland

I’ve been busy getting ready for a full-time speaking gig. But just like my last blog post, I need to get this one out before any other writing can move forward. I may have no business writing about Sandra Bland, as a white woman. I apologize if this is not my place. I’ve watched the video that lead to her arrest, the video after her death and read a lot of articles on social media. Maybe it’s because she is a woman but her fate touched me and I can’t stop thinking about what she must have gone through. And Ms Bland’s case is on the heels of the dozens of other cases of African-Americans being killed by peace offices, being filmed in this smart phone era. I am way past sad, frustrated and angry about this social situation, about black people being abused and killed. I feel ashamed and helpless. This and the gun violence in this country are endemic to something deeper than a violent, human tendency. It is unique to America. Some folks never got over losing white domination over African-Americans, I don’t get it but we can’t deny or ignore it. I want to run from it because it is too sick and almost incomprehensible. But, unfortunately, I can comprehend it. It’s racism, hate, bigotry, ignorance and fear. And we are not better than that. It is who we are.

Like everything in this world, everything is connected. This is happening at a time of our first African-America President. The leader of our country and the free world is African-American. He is also the first president to get heckled at a State of the Union, had his birth record questioned, been dissed by the Speaker of the House more than once, been overridden by Republican in Congress who wrote a letter to Iran telling them to ignore our leader and who invited the Israeli Prime Minister to speak to Congress without consulting him. I want to get on with my point so I will stop there but I could go on. Now, I’m white so I can tell you there are racist white people. When I wore my Obama buttons in 2004, I got the remarks and the looks. I know what that means. And I live in Minnesota where we are much quieter and more passive aggressive with our racism than in the south. So I know how to dial what I have seen with my own eyes here in the north up to an eleven down in Dixie.

These bigots are angry. They’re primarily angry because of what 35 years of Republican policies have done to them but they don’t know that. Between the way they were raised and the propaganda they hear on right-wing radio and corporate media, they have heard the drumbeat for years about how everything wrong in our society is the fault of people of color (and we progressives, of course). I’m a white woman who only hangs with progressive, open-minded, white people (and people of color) and I still hear enough out there to know the way some white people think and feel. I have worked with some, too. But today’s Republican party – nationally and in states – is propagating this racism and continues to establish laws to see it continues, like restricting voter rights and gerrymandering. The hateful right is riled up something fierce. 

Now, add the divisive culture on the right with this year’s Supreme Court decision upholding marriage equality and the Affordable Care Act (which is helping even those on the right but they can’t see it because it’s Mr. Obama’s signature legislation) and the many states that have removed the Confederate battle flag from state grounds and we have riled a whole lot more folks. Now it’s not just the black man – and his whole family – in the White House, it’s gay people climbing in their status plus having one of their symbols of white power being relegated to museums. It’s a combination of fearing change and believing those “other” people are to blame for problems in life. It’s irrational but it’s real to them.

The Charleston massacre is a centerpiece to this unrest. So are the KKK rallies. A lot of bugs have been exposed by our recent social shifts, probably equivalent to the Civil Right’s era of the 1960s. And smart phones have exposed this epidemic of cop violence towards black citizens for us white folks and the world to see. This abuse of power needs a new word because appalling, vile, terrifying or ethnic cleansing aren’t strong enough. I’ve worked with cops. They have a tough job. It’s stressful. But no one is forced to be a cop and if you don’t have the ability to stay calm and remain a representative of law and order without taking things personally, you don’t belong. If you have a racist ax to grind, you need therapy and to find a line of work that protects your racist sensibilities. I suggest something like academic research, sorting plastics at a recycling center or a laundry, where the bigger world won’t rile you as much or disturb your fragile sensibilities.

This country made a lot of concessions to slave owners at its founding, like inserting the second amendment and helping the south’s congressional representation by counting their slaves as three-fifths human. But when we got our moral fortitude together and decided to abolish slavery, that wouldn’t do for the states that seceded. The good guys won that, too. But we kept making concessions for them with like their Jim Crow laws. And we looked the other way for 150 years after abolition as blacks got treated differently than whites by cops. We whites knew about it but now we know it is rampant. For some cops and some departments (Ferguson), it’s the norm

All these angry white people are incensed and enraged. Our black brothers and sisters need to be protected from them. Now is the long overdue time for justice and a change at a national level. Police need to be held accountable. All people of every color and socioeconomic status need to feel police are their to protect and serve, not to work out their baggage and rage. I feel helpless but I had to get this off my chest. I want to hold and comfort Ms Bland. I want to promise her and her loved ones this stops today. 

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