When I arrived to the office on Friday, July 8th, the morning after a sniper ambushed police officers at a peaceful protest in downtown Dallas, I was quickly greeted by a white male colleague. He had a look of anguish on his face and said, “Wow, what a night huh?” I took a deep breath and responded, “No, what a horrible past three days.” Another colleague overheard the introduction and immediately moved to the area where we were standing. She leaned in to hear my thoughts on the tragic events.
As much as I tried to withhold the tears, they flowed through my words. “This just didn’t start last night with five police officers being killed. It started on Tuesday when a black man was shot five times at point blank range by a white police officer and it was recorded. Then on Wednesday, the world woke up to yet another video of another black man with a blood stained t-shirt with a gun pointed towards him. He was also killed by a police officer while his four-year-old daughter sat in the back seat, comforting her mom. It’s been an emotionally draining three days.”
They stood there attentive to my words intermingled with my emotions. “When we say BLACK LIVES MATTER, this does not mean we are anti-white, anti-police, or anti-anything. It says acknowledge there is a systematic problem when it comes to police brutality that needs to be addressed. We simply want the rest of America to acknowledge it! We cannot confront what we do not face! But that’s just the beginning!”
They stood quiet as I continued. I pulled on an analogy I hoped my hispanic female colleague could relate to; since she recently endured painful ACL surgery and recovery. I asked a simple yet thought provoking question, “What if you went to the doctor with excruciating knee pain and a splinter in your finger and he wanted to focus on the splinter. You would be upset and respond with, “But it’s my knee that I’m most concerned about and require immediate attention, not my finger!” She shook her head in agreement and said, “most definitely!”
Now her eyes began to well up as she asked, “What can I do to change all of this?” I felt her genuine concern coming from a deep and sincere place. We shared ideas on what could take place on an individual level, but agreed; it’s not only a systematic, but economic problem that has deep historical roots that’s branches are continuously growing today.
When I returned home for the evening, I sat on my couch and cried once again as I recalled the conversation. and so much I should have shared, but didn’t. One thing I didn’t do was thank them for the conversation; and being open to listen to another perspective, a black one. This I believe is one answer to her question… we must begin to have conversations on personal and safe level that will broaden our way of thinking.
We can accept that even in our own heads, homes and circles of influence, we have some closed minded perspectives that can be harmful to others when played out. The fact that they wanted to have the conversation and were willing to listen. The fact that she asked what could she do. The admission of white privilege. I can appreciate that all by itself. Its not a matter of denying the black experience, because others will never be able to fully embrace it; but to simply be open to admit there’s an issue and have the conversation…Yes, I can truly appreciate that!