Against the backdrop of the unrelentingly horrendous headlines of the past week, a couple of stories on the periphery of the recent tragedies gained the heft of poignant zingers to my own perception of my country and, by extension, myself.
The first was a column in the Seattle Times about Ron Sims, a man I have known and respected for nearly 30 years. Ron is a former King County Executive, gubernatorial candidate and an Undersecretary in the Department of Housing and Urban Development. In my mind, there is no more distinguished public servant of any color in my state. Yet, as a black man, no matter how prominent, Sims keeps a running tab of the number of times he’s been pulled over by Seattle police (eight and counting). The stops never resulted in a ticket. In the most recent occurrence, the officer simply asked, “Where are you going?” as if that was his business to know.
The second article concerned a warning by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Bahamas. The Ministry warned its citizens, who are mostly black, to be careful while travelling in the United States because of tensions around the recent shootings of black men by white police officers. The Ministry warned young men, specifically, should “exercise extreme caution in affected cities in their interactions with the police … Do not be confrontational and cooperate.”
This is my country and I am sick to my stomach with sorrow and anger.
It is not news to me that, as a white male, I have a thoroughly different experience of living here than people of color do. I have watched (several times) people in hotels where we were paying customers ask my wife (who is Asian-American) to fetch them coffee or clear their plates. I have seen an off duty police officer threaten my 9 year old son (who is Latino) with the words “I put kids like you in jail all the time.” I know I cannot pretend to truly understand the horror and fear each of the acts of violence we witnessed last week sends through families with black sons, husbands and fathers. The very fact that this is a lesson I have had the luxury of learning over time, rather than a reality that is omnipresent in the air I breathe is a testament to the inequities we face.
Usually, my posts on this site try to offer insight or perspective. Resource Media, after all, is an organization of strategic consultants. We advise. We analyze. We message and we teach. This is not one of those moments. I don’t pretend to have answers or wisdom. I simply believe it is important to say that my colleagues at Resource Media and I stand in absolute solidarity against the epidemic of violence against innocent victims in this country. We believe beyond any doubt that #blacklivesmatter.
Over the last week, I have had a song from fifty years ago playing in the background of my thoughts. Sam Cook’s “A Change is Gonna Come” was one of the great anthems of the civil rights movement in the sixties, another time when white people joined with people of color in defiance of violence and injustice. I need to have faith that we are on the cusp of another great change in this country. That is why we at Resource Media join the hundreds of thousands of others in this country who will stand up and be counted. And to this effort I bring my own understanding that the experience of being black in America won’t change until the experience of being white in America changes as well.
Note: If you do want to make yourself heard on issues of race and justice, here are a few resources.
- Tool from CampaignZERO to learn how your representative has voted on police reform, and urge action for racial justice: http://www.joincampaignzero.org/#action
- Pledge to support the Movement for Black Lives: http://action.movementforblacklives.org
- List of black-led racial justice organizations that could use financial support: http://www.showingupforracialjustice.org/black_led_racial_justice_organizations