The sun was setting behind me; the children getting restless in the back seat from a long drive. Tired of listening to music, I turned the Sirius to the news channels to see what was happening in the world. (When I say world, I mean that loosely, because our news stations too frequently fail to report anything outside our own borders)
Protesters across the nation were marching out against two more shootings; adding to a the long list of lives lost as a result of unnecessary force used against minorities.
As a strong advocate for civil liberties and a long time employee of the criminal justice system, my passion for this particular subject is very high. My little children were very engaged in the protests; actively conversing about the state of affairs.
We were listening to commentary when the shots started firing. The live reports of police being shot echoed throughout the truck and our hearts.
In that moment, my heart sank; not from the lives being lost before me, but for the lives that undoubtedly would continue to be lost as a result of this very moment.
Don’t get me wrong. I had been working with police officers every day for over half a decade. I see them laugh, ask about their little ones, and watch as they empathize with the very people they are restraining.
Despite being conditioned by decades of national shootings, in that moment, my numbness to blue lives lost was for a whole other reason.
We were on a cusp, ready to move forward with race relations. Our nation was finally acknowledging that the better you tan the more likely you will be at the brute end of a police officer’s baton, or bullets.
That momentum was sure to be halted by the actions of one mentally ill man. I’m not a psychic, but future news reports started bombarding my thoughts.
This is going to divide our nation even further.
These shots might as well go straight through those officers and into a long line of American citizens denied due process. The magic bullets won’t stop there; they will again penetrate the people who protect us, and then begin shredding our political and personal beliefs.
Many times during my long night’s drive I found myself wanting to check if I was still breathing, if my heart was still beating.
I went to the very first auto parts store open and bought a package of window paint. In bold lettering and matching corresponding colors, I wrote the following:
BLACK AND BLUE
Black and Blue means we don’t have to choose between Black Lives and the lives of our police officers. They both matter; and they are both in danger! To me, Black and Blue symbolizes and personifies the current state of our criminal justice system.
On the sides of the windows I wrote:
BRUISED NOT BROKEN
Many would argue that things are broken, I cannot disagree with that perception. I’m just not ready to give up hope.
However, we will never fix anything if we don’t acknowledge that it needs fixing. If we are going to pretend that our constitution is more than just a bunch of words, we better admit that people of color are more likely to be the killed by the same officers sworn to protect them.
and I wrote:
STOP! DON’T SHOOT!
This is directed at everyone. Before you feel the need to pull the trigger against a person of interest, Stop! Don’t Shoot! Before you feel the need to retaliate, Stop! Don’t Shoot!
How much of this could have been avoided if everyone involved showed a little more restraint; gave their eyes just a second longer to assess the situation?
My message failed. It didn’t catch on. In fact, my message was received with hate and disgust in my community.
I am still not ready to give up! This conversation is not over.
Please join me in a series dedicated to discussing the very real state of our criminal justice system.
BLACK AND BLUE