Tuesday, August 19, 2014

It’s Not All Black and White

So I was making small talk with a defense attorney as we watched our sons scrimmage during football practice last night. Because we don’t know each other well, we started out chatting about relatively mundane stuff like the challenges of parenting, the perils of house hunting and the irony of wanting a lot of property but not a lot of yard work.

But once I was reminded that my pal – who happens to be African-American – is a counselor at law, I couldn’t help myself. I began animatedly relating my experiences with our local judicial system in order to garner free legal advice and verify that I’m not alone in believing a certain local judge is in fact a reptilian twit. (I’m not.) For better or worse, my life experience has afforded me the ability to talk any lawyer’s left ear off if I don’t rein this power in.

Michael Brown
Although I knew from last season that my friend – let’s call him Martin – is more conservative than I am politically, I’m ashamed to admit that I made an assumption which proved wrong. Martin, it turns out, does not necessarily share my view that the assassination of 18-year-old Michael Brown, an African-American, by a white police officer in a St. Louis suburb on August 9 is a travesty.

Because Martin looks more like Al Sharpton than Bill O’Reilly, I just assumed he was as outraged as the Good Reverend by what happened in Ferguson, Missouri.

Martin also doesn’t view the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in February of 2012 in the same way I do – I remain as incensed that Zimmerman walked free as I was when that b*llsh*t verdict was announced – and he regularly warns his “community” not to rush to judgment when any high-profile legal case involving people of color makes headlines.

Yes, Martin has been pulled over for “fitting the profile” and believes the militarization of local police departments is not a good thing. He knows why some people think the police motto “Serve and Protect” has become “Serve and Collect.” But he goes out of his way to avoid jumping on bandwagons – vehicles that this mildly-chagrined progressive assumed Martin would be driving or at least navigating - before he knows the facts, has read the transcripts, has considered the charges and evidence and knows the whole story.

Martin also shared that it didn’t make a whole lot of sense for him, me or anybody to get all worked up and outraged about one or two or three heavily-publicized cases when 11 people were shot to death in Chicago just last week. A lot of parents have lost beloved offspring. Why mourn the loss of one boy but not others?

I knew my answer – “I’d mourn ‘em all if I knew about ‘em” – was weak the moment I blurted it out.

When it came time for us to stand, fold our chairs and collect our sons for the relatively long walk to the junior high parking lot, I found myself somewhat at a loss for words. “Thanks for the conversation,” was all I could muster. He nodded and wished me a good night as we separated.

I’ve been strident recently in making the case that not all white guys are unmoved by the plight of black men and boys in this country. Looks like I need to quit speaking for others and assuming I know what anybody else wants to say.

When I asked Bryant during the drive home what position he wants to play this year, he answered “free safety.” I wonder what Martin thinks about that.

Howard University students at "Don't Shoot" rally

Sources: ABC News, Chicago Sun-Times.

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