In the last twenty-four hours, the country has had its attention drawn, yet again, to the sight of a young, black girl being thrown around by a law enforcement officer of undoubtedly superior size and strength. (In case you’ve forgotten, it happened at a Dallas pool party earlier this year).
But this one stung a little bit more. This one happened at home — this was a student at Spring Valley High School, which is just a two-minute drive from my mother’s house (located in the well-to-do Spring Valley sub-division). My father and uncles are Spring Valley graduates. And while the Spring Valley Vikings were loathed enemies for us Richland Northeast Cavaliers, the fact is, pretty much all of us had friends, or at least acquaintances, who attended there. We were all, at some point, family (even if our main shared value was gratitude at not being a student in Richland District One…).
The point is, this literally hits close to home. (If you’re looking for details, here’s the most recent reporting from The State, my hometown paper)
Now, not surprisingly, I have many, many thoughts about this incident. Some are more significant than others. Some are going to require more time, and reflection.
For the moment, I’m stuck on this one — and it’s admittedly kind of petty, and only tangentially related. But I’m gonna roll with it.
My Facebook feed has been something of a roller-coaster on this issue. I take very seriously the idea of not “un-friending” people because we share different opinions or worldviews. I do not want to live in a bubble. I do not want to shut myself off from ideas that challenge my own. Granted, I have been “un-friended” by a few people in the past, almost always because of heated political discussions. But I have never taken that step myself. I just don’t want differences of opinion to matter more than the relationship itself.
Moments like this, though, make me question that policy.
I look at what people say, and I have to wonder — can I really be friends with this person? And I should point out, these aren’t just random online connections. I have a strict policy of never “friending” someone I haven’t actually met in person. So I’m talking about folks I know. Guys I grew up with. I look at the things that are said, and I think — why do I allow this in my life?
To be specific, I see friends online responding to the incident at Spring Valley by saying, in effect:
- she deserved what happened, because she was being disrespectful
- the officer was therefore doing nothing wrong, and was appropriately fulfilling his duty
- that race doesn’t factor into the incident at all
- and that they, or their children, would never act that way in school because they’d get beaten at home if they did
I have a lot to say about each one of those points.
But for now, I will just say this — I am so saddened, and sickened, that people I know, and care for, and consider friends, see the world in such a way that a girl can be thrown across a classroom simply for the “crime” of being “disrespectful” and it will be considered fair and just. People who will look at this child… or the child in Dallas… or protestors in Baltimore and Ferguson… and not hesitate to agree when they are referred to as “thugs”, “mongrels”, “animals”.
This is not a particularly useful way of addressing the situation, I know that. I’ve made it about me and my own issues. Issues which register as mere discomfort while I sit safely in my middle-class apartment in liberal Massachusetts. Issues which pale in comparison to those of a community that continues to live with a target on its back, in spite of decades of struggle and hard-won progress.
But this is the part of the issue I’m capable of discussing right now. The other stuff… the stuff that matters… that’s going to take a little more time.