Protestors shouted from my TV. I watched. My stomach moved its way up into my throat. I watched. Tears rolled down the cheeks of people I didn’t know. I watched. Cars were overturned. I watched. People walked together and chanted. I watched. A young man shot. A man choked and dead. And I watched.
I watched. I watched with an upset stomach and a lump in my throat… just watching.
My 10 year old son emerged from his bedroom as the news played across the television. He stopped behind my right shoulder, watching as Erik Garner held his arms above his head and a police officer choked him and pushed him to the ground. He watched as Eric Garner gasped 11 times, “I can’t breathe.”
“What’s this,” he asked.
“The news,” I responded.
“Is this happening here?”
Usually when my son comes out at night to ask a question, I answer and tell him to go back to bed. But I didn’t this time. As homeschooling parents, we try to present a full picture of history and current events to our children – Columbus’s arrival resulted in the slaughter of millions, the Declaration of Independence was written when all people were not treated as equals, slavery didn’t end with the Civil War, the Civil Rights Movement didn’t stop with Martin Luther King, Jr., Stonewall shouldn’t be overlooked, and torture is wrong. And so my son and I watched together.
We watched and we talked. We talked about how justice in this country often tilts away from African Americans and people of color. And as we talked, I thought of Eric Garner and his children. His children will never have another conversation with their father. They will never get to hear his advice or his recounting of a story. I have always told my kids that if they are in trouble or lost, they should find a police officer. But would a Black parent give their kids the same advice? Would I if I were Black?
I am not anti-law enforcement. My wife and I teach our children to respect and honor police officers and there are many good officers (some who are our close friends and neighbors) that take seriously their pledge to protect and serve. The problem is not with individual officers; the entire system is broken. And even individual officers who are otherwise blameless shoulder the guilt of a system that is unjust.
Now I know that often times liberal white men (like me) love to preach against racism from our white privileged couches. We act as though we are Jerry McGuire yelling, “I love black people.” We want everyone to see us and say, “There’s a good white guy.” And I don’t want to be another white guy writing about racism as though I know what it feels like to be a person of color in America. There is no way that someone like me can fully comprehend it.
But that doesn’t mean that my heart doesn’t ache for those that experience the pains of racism. That doesn’t mean that I have nothing to add to the conversation. When we ride the subway in NYC, you’ll hear over the speaker, “If you see something, say something.” My blog is my outlet. My blog is my voice. I have something to say. I have somewhere to say it.
I don’t want to watch while injustices are happening around me.
My family recently joined marchers in New York City. One of the things we shouted as we marched was “Black lives matter!” As a white dad raising white kids, it’s my job to teach this to my children. That all people are created by God in His image and are equal.
The pessimist in me believes that racism will always be here. That nothing will change. But the optimist in me hopes – hopes that racism will end someday. For that to happen, we have to teach our kids to value all human lives. We have to teach our children that justice matters and that, as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Zechariah 7:9 – This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.
Isaiah 1:17 – Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.
Amos 5: 12-15a – 12 For I know how many are your offenses and how great your sins. There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes and deprive the poor of justice in the courts. 13 Therefore the prudent keep quiet in such times, for the times are evil. 14 Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. 15 Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts.
NO MORE WATCHING