It’s the Barrel that’s Rotten: Black Lives Matter

 

I’ve been wanting to write something about the epidemic of police shootings of  black men in this country.  I’m finding it really difficult.  I’m completely overwhelmed. What do I, a middle-aged white woman, have to add to this conversation?

First I want to say I’m heart-broken, and I’m sorry.  I am heart-broken for the lives lost-the fathers, sons, brothers, lovers, friends who are gone and for those who continue on without them.  I’m sorry to all the mothers of black boys who have always known that their babies were not safe out there, that the police force could not be counted on to serve and protect their precious children.  I’m sorry.  I didn’t know.

How could this happen, we ask?  It must have been a crazy, isolated incident.  A bad apple, a misunderstanding, a fluke.  Only then it happens again.  And again.  I know it’s hard to keep track, but over 100 unarmed African Americans were killed by police in 2015. And at least 15 have been killed since Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the National Anthem in protest less than a month ago. So you have to stand up and say, no.  It’s not a few bad apples.  The barrel is rotten. Repeated shootings of unarmed black men are caused by police culture.  It’s really that simple.  And we can do better.  We need better training, better salaries, and body cams, and we need to clean house.  We need to do it now. Men and women who are unprepared or unwilling to diffuse difficult situations need to find other occupations that do not involve firearms.  They need to do it today. And the organizations they work for need to see to it.

So what can I do?  I can support Black Lives Matter.  I can do that.  And I can call you out if you are one of those people still yelling ALL LIVES MATTER!  I can’t believe there are still STILL people out there who seem genuinely surprised that this is offensive to those of us mourning the loss of innocent souls.  I’m not sure I can get through to you.  Do you know what you sound like when you say ALL LIVES MATTER?  It’s like if I showed up at your mother’s funeral, went to the front of the church, pushed the preacher out of the way, grabbed the mike and yelled DEATH IS SAD FOR EVERYONE! That’s how bad you sound.  Just stop it.

I wonder, now that my boys are almost grown, if I did right by them by teaching them to respect police officers.  I taught them that these were people that put their lives on the line every day to help us.  That they were heroes just for putting on the uniform.  I believed it.  And all of my interactions with police officers (and as a boring middle-aged white women, there haven’t been that many) have been professional exchanges. Pleasant even, to the extent that getting a speeding ticket can be pleasant.  All of them except one.

It’s been almost a year now, and it still bothers me.  I think mostly it bothers me that I didn’t report it.  I wish I had. It was around 10:30 at night, and I was driving my son home after a concert.  I was on a well-travelled but poorly lit road, and I hit a roadblock.  There were a couple of cars in front of me, and I waited patiently for my turn to be cleared of whatever.  I left my high beams on. Look, I am really sorry I left my high beams on.  I forgot I had them on.  I can see how that would be annoying to someone conducting a roadblock.  When I reached the stop, a short, blond man in uniform approached my car.  He took his super Krypton powered flashlight and shone it directly in my eyes.  

“Does the light hurt your eyes?” he asked?

“Yes,” I yelped, trying to shield my face.

“Well, now you know how it feels,” he said pointing to my lights and waving me through.

“Oh my God,” said my son.  “What an asshole.”

So thank you Rankin County Police Department for preparing my son  to deal with men in blue in the real world. Next time one of his friends calls you pigs, he probably won’t defend you like I had taught him to.

This man purposefully inflicted actual pain on me because I annoyed him.  I was temporarily blinded, but I drove off anyway, which was potentially dangerous.  Is this the man you want holding a gun on an unarmed black man when things get tense?  Is it?  Do you think this was the first or the last time he used his power to ruin someone’s evening because he could?  To say he acted unprofessionally is not good enough.  Because I am willing to bet money that his colleagues and his superiors are well aware of just what kind of man he is. This was not some sociopath skillfully preying on unsuspecting motorists while his superiors were none the wiser, this was a man who is clearly and publicly ill equipped to handle the badge. It is the responsibility of our police departments to not hand people like this guns. We must hold them accountable.

 

Thanksgiving: The Macaroni Holiday

 

If it is fall where you are, goody for you.  It is still ninety something every day here in the Deep South.  Well last month it was one hundred and something, so I suppose those Starbucks pumpkin-spice lattes are justified.  Kidding.  Starbucks pumpkin-spiced lattes are never justified.  Still, it is only 65 days until my favorite holiday.  The countdown starts today.

I could go into some earnest tirade about the farce of the first Thanksgiving or delve more deeply into the childhood trauma when all the boys were pilgrims and all the girls were Indians, and the Indians got to serve the meal.  Seriously, what were you thinking?  But I don’t feel like talking about that today.

What I want to talk about is traditional Thanksgiving Food! The weird thing about Thanksgiving is no matter how much you may or may not like your family, you are pretty much stuck with them for this one.  So how do you know how other people celebrate?  I’ve eaten turkey off the same table cloth for like 45 years now.

Back when I was married, I did attend a few with my husband until I finally decided they were just doing it wrong, and I’d let them ruin Christmas instead.  It really wasn’t all that different in terms of food.  The China was better but you weren’t allowed to actually let your utensils touch the plate lest you scratch it.  By better I mean not Corelle.  It was really the this-is-the-one-opportunity-you-have-per-year-to-demonstrate-your-femininity-through-perfect-piecrust-and-well-behaved-children vibe that got to me.  Also they dismissed my suggestion for sweet potato pie as “well, that would be ethnic, wouldn’t it?” And I failed at ice cube duty and had to watch football with the men.

My family does pie just fine although one might accuse of us putting quantity over quality some years.  Of course one pie per person is not too much.  You don’t want to cook on Black Friday do you?  There is also the yearly retelling of that time my brother set the table cloth on fire by sticking a used match back in the box.  I swear that gets funnier every year.   And it’s even better knowing that if this had happened in my ex’s household, there would be much wringing of hands, blame games, and numerous dips into the female family members’ rather large stash of Prozac.  Oh.  Yes.   I knew.

I realize not everyone celebrates the same way.  But still, the typical spread of turkey and sweet potatoes and cornbread unites us as Americans. Celebration of gluttony is a universal, right? Or so I thought until I came across this image:

t-day

Today I learned that I am black.  Except hang on, what is that?  Is that…..macaroni and cheese?  The hell you say. Hang on a second.  I have to make a phone call.

Do you eat macaroni and cheese on Thanksgiving?

Yeah.  Don’t you?

I have to call my mother.

Mom!  Mom!  Did you know black people eat macaroni and cheese on Thanksgiving?

No.  But that sounds like a great idea!  Are you bringing someone?

Now, you may be laughing at me but I’m not the only one who didn’t know this.  Pat Robertson didn’t know either.  You gotta watch this.  And then you can laugh at me some more.

Me and Pat Robertson.  Thanksgiving.  It brings people together.

I think the reason this tidbit of trivial information seems to produce such a strong reaction is that Pat and I figured we all ate the same stuff on Thanksgiving.  I mean that’s what tradition is, right?  Perhaps it makes us a bit uncomfortable to admit that not only do we not share our homes and traditions on Thanksgiving, we don’t do a lot of celebrating with people we think of as outsiders as all.

I figured I should google it.  Why do white people not eat macaroni and cheese on Thanksgiving?

And crowdsource says:

That is a very good question.  I believe it is a black thing.

I’m white. I have never even heard of people eating mac and cheese on Thanksgiving so it must be a black thing.

There’s nothing wrong with eating Mac and Cheese, no matter the day or race.

I’m black, and I’ve never heard of any black people eating mac n cheese on Thanksgiving.  Seriously, I would assume it’s a white thing, actually.

We should all eat mac n cheese on Thanksgiving. I f**king love mac n cheese.

You people have restored my faith in humanity.  Everyone invite someone from outside your family over for Thanksgiving.  There should be mac n cheese.