Of course! You know it wouldn’t take me long to give my two cents on the biggest topic in the last month, besides Bill Cosby. Fortunately, having my own blog allows me to spew whatever I want, without being showered with hecklers from either side. Either side? Isn’t that ironic. The Civil Rights Movement was 50 years ago and we are still talking about sides. What gives?
If you’re looking for “just the facts”, this isn’t the blog for you. The data and the details have been scrutinized beyond scrutiny. Were his hands up? Did he have a gun? Was he a criminal? Undoubtedly, whatever “side” you are on will cloud your assessment of any of the “facts”.
Whatever you think is true is debatable. But what isn’t debatable is that these incidents are happening. Whether it’s a toy gun, a crazed jaywalker or someone screaming “I can’t breathe”, these incidents are happening. No one is debating their existence, but from there the red sea of opinion miraculously parts.
Truth is absolute. Truth is fact. Truth is immutable. If truth is so absolute, how can there be so many different renditions of it? How can perspective change the “truth”? How can one group of people believe that an innocent man was gunned down for jaywalking, while another group feels he is the “demon” criminal scourge of the earth? How can young black men be both villains and victims? How can the police be both selfless protectors and Ku Klux Klan crazed killers? If truth is so scientifically pure, how can our interpretation of it be so profoundly different?
The answer is pretty easy. “Truth” does exist. It is measureable. It is calculable. But it is clouded by a very necessary and primal emotion. The thing that changes our interpretation of truth is… Fear!
If we sift through the data, in Ferguson and Cleveland and New York, we will find one consistent theme. We will find that the truth is muddied by fear. The officer in Ferguson, who was protecting himself from an unarmed lethal attack, called his attacker a “demon”. What an odd word to describe someone. Calling him a demon implies that his attacker was endowed with superhuman evil. If he was a “demon”, the officer had no choice but to be scared.
Those on the other side of the fence, see an innocent law-abiding unarmed young man who simply ran away from the cops and was shot in cold blood. Again, we know that also isn’t entirely true. In 2005, I was followed by a County Sheriff for 15 miles. Eventually with gun drawn, he pulled me over, handcuffed me and laid be face-down on the street. The officer was white and if you didn’t know, I am black.
When I hear the Ferguson story or the story of the 12 year old shot in Cleveland or the man choked in New York, fear clouds my judgment. Fear changes what the Ferguson truth is. My experiences with this and many other police officers change my view of the “truth” in Ferguson.
So here we are. Slavery abolished. Civil rights achieved. And still we scare the you-know-what out of each other. No matter where you land on the political spectrum this ought to sadden you. Because of our fears, a cop’s life is ruined and a young man is dead. The same fear that created so much conflict in Ferguson was the same fear that left me handcuffed, face-down, on the ground.
Was he an innocent young man with a bright future or was he an unrelenting demon that could power through bullets? Was he an unsuspecting peace officer protecting himself from certain demise or was he a racist who prejudged a man based on the color of his skin? We will never really know what the “truth” is. As long as we continue to view the world through lenses of fear, we will always live in conflict.
I hope I don’t get pulled over on the way home….