Although I’ve been relatively silent on social media the last couple weeks or so, I have not been idle. I have been having conversations, both online and offline. Great conversations. Hard conversations. Conversations full of awkward silence, along with moments of beautiful insight and revelatory sorrow. But in all of them, I’ve seen progress. I’ve seen us pushing things forward… together.
In looking back over the events of the last few years, one of the recurring statements that often preceded a POC’s loss of life by an LEO was that the officer “feared for their safety”, or the safety of someone else… a neighbor, a store owner, a colleague. While we can endlessly debate the validity of that assertion, we can and should look at the part fear has played in the history of violence against people from different cultures.
It seems the from the very beginning, white Americans (and to a lesser degree, Americans in general) have been conditioned to fear those who were different from them. Or at least view them as what I call “necessary adversaries”. It reminds me of the quote, “Nothing brings people together like a common enemy.” I remember playing “Cowboys and Indians” as a child. And although no one sat me down and said, “The cowboys are the good guys, and the Indians are the bad guys” It was just understood that this was true because everything we saw reinforced this belief. From toys to books to TV shows… the kids were upset when they had to be the “indian”. When I go back and watch “Old West” films, I find that they’re rife with the indoctrination of Native American savagery. “Indians” steal food and livestock. They rape and kill and have no concern for what’s fair or honorable. A false narrative.
Conditioned to FEAR.
In much the same way, the portrayal of African Americans in media (television, film, books, advertisements, etc.) has served to reinforce the stereotypical dangerous stranger. No one may have said it straight out. But to look around is to understand that “Here are the many reasons you should be afraid of black people.” We are gang bangers who live to terrorize communities and kill indiscriminately for sport. We sell drugs to support our own drug habits, and will kill family and friends if they interfere in this process. We steal women from other races and dominate them in defiance of the authority and superiority of other races. We are lazy, seeking only comfort and convenience, to the detriment of our futures or concern for anyone other than ourselves. Another false narrative.
Conditioned to FEAR.
For too long our country has been living in denial of the underlying traditions of xenophobia that support our current racial divide. Until we acknowledge the truth of our own biases, we cannot effectively address the immeasurable damage of this “fear” that has rippled throughout history.
How then do you retrain someone to no longer fear those of whom they’ve been repeatedly told to be afraid?
In some of my conversations, I’ve heard people say that education is not the solution. To a degree, I agree with that statements. We must understand that education was never meant to fix the problem of discrimination or systemic racism. But education provides the light that exposes an issue, so that we can fully understand and see clearly what it is that we’re attempting to fix. EDUCATION becomes the antidote to fear.
The solution then becomes replacing fear with COURAGE and DETERMINATION.
Together we can be the catalyst for CHANGE.