I don’t really understand racism on a certain level. I never have. I hope I never do. I love our colorful world. I think colors and shapes and glitter and movement make each one of us an interesting package that everyone should be eager to unwrap and discover. But even as I say that, I start to question myself. Has racism and prejudice somehow creeped into my life and become a part of me?
I definitely can’t deny it exists. I used to try. Well, I didn’t totally deny it existed, but I thought people were changing. That we were moving towards equality. Towards a world that celebrates color and differences. But I hear conversations, watch how people assess particular situations, see how race is still mentioned on almost any form you complete (even though many people I know are a racial rainbow that don’t fit in the boxes), and I know we’re not there yet. Not even close.
I can’t deny racism and prejudice has started to impact me….something I thought would never happen. Maybe it’s not exactly racism, but more of a prejudice. I find myself profiling people based on looks (which can include skin color, but other things too.) I notice it in myself mostly when I am traveling.
I usually blow through TSA at a rapid speed. Often I get pre-check status. (I’ve meant to go through the process of getting it officially, but have never taken the time. It’s on my to-do list.) I love when I see pre-check on my boarding pass and enjoy the quicker run through security. I don’t think about the fact that I get that status most often because I don’t fit into any negative profiles…..I just figure they like me.
I find I notice others more these days. I look at people at airports differently. It’s an odd thing for me, who has always embraced differences and would most often want to sit next to the person who is more exotic than me. Now some corner of my mind stalks out my fellow passengers. Do they look like a terrorist? When we left for Japan, Maggie and I had our picture taken by a woman wearing a hijab. She was a very sweet lady….but I suspect she didn’t knock through TSA as quickly as we did. If she did, I suspect she was still eyed by some off our fellow passengers differently. She ended up being on our flight and I ended up watching her a lot. I felt protective of her. I was curious as to who she was and what her story was. Did I fear her? Not at all. But she was a curiousity. (And she had a ton of luggage!)
These days I especially find myself looking at the men who board my flight. Not to see who is most attractive, as I might have in days of old, but to gauge who they are. What do I see in their eyes? Is it kindness, or anger, or even worse…..are they vacant? I make mental notes as to where those who raise my suspicions sit. And I also assess the other passengers….who will help me if issues break out? I know I will not go down without a fight…..but who will be on my team? And what will be my strategy? (Yes, sometimes reading a lot does impact real life. I have a dramatic imagination.)
But so far the flights have all ended up being fine, and probably those I personally profiled are nice folks I would want to know. Still, had they done anything I deemed unusual on the plane, I might over-react should it “seem overly suspicious”.
I was taught to always respect law enforcement….and I do. Usually. When I went through the Citizen’s Academy at our local police department I was so impressed with most of the officers that I met. I heard the compassionate way they looked at most situations and was happy they chose to do what they do. But sometimes I would see that human side…the cynicism that comes from dealing with real people day in and day out. Not everyone I met was a person I liked or trusted or bonded with instantly. Some seemed very young and immature. Some a bit jaded. Some thoughtless. There were none I really had major issues with….in fact, overall they raised my esteem for who they are and what they do. But you can’t help but be reminded they are human….and being trained and wearing a uniform does not make someone a good person with sound judgment. And weeding out the good from the bad….that is a difficult job that I am not sure I could do myself.
I have much sympathy for those in law enforcement. How can they help but form opinions about people? How can they help but do a bit of profiling? If I do it on a plane, how much more would there be a tendency to do it if I had a job that required I deal with true criminals, sometimes the worst specimens of humanity, day in and day out?
There’s that fear factor. It has to be on their mind each day. They have a job where they deal with people at their worst. They put themselves in danger every day. They spend a lot of time training for the worst possible scenarios. I’m incredibly grateful they do….I appreciate them being ready to protect us from almost any event that could happen. But doesn’t that also impact how a person looks at the world? They are taught that when there is a threat to stop it as soon as possible. How do we keep them safe (and we all should work to keep them safe), but also keep those who are not threats to their lives safe from harm?
When I did the Citizen’s Academy we did simulations where we were put in situations where it was simply us and a gun in a place where a life-like video played out all around us. The very first simulation, I was shot. I hesitated. I didn’t assess the situation correctly. It would have been difficult to do so…..there were layers that required your discernment and action. It moved so quickly. A lot was out of my control. I wasn’t confident. While I did better in future simulations, there were others where I could have easily killed an innocent person. It wasn’t easy. It was a bit frightening….and I knew it was all pretend. I wish you all had the opportunity to go through these. I think you may have a different view of the real life of law enforcement.
I don’t know all the answers. The hate has to stop. We need to find a way to break beyond the fear. We need to protect the innocent….both police and public. We need to become one. A country bound together. Races and genders and religions and occupations and ideologies. Determined to stop the hate speak and the hysteria in all areas of our lives. Like many others I am sickened by the thought of what lies ahead for our country. But this I know….I can make it better. So can you. We can be the calm and rational voices that help our country work through this. Focusing on the future. On the good things that can happen. And fighting for justice and mercy. For all. Not just for those that happen to be like us.