oversharing 6/4/20

This post is not about plants, though there are some nice palm trees in the photos by MB Maher. I can tend to overshare sometimes (I got my surgical staples out today!), and this is such a time, so feel free to pass. And I feel like I’ve told this story here before too, and if so, pardon the repetition.

What if it were your kid?” Through a series of unfortunate misunderstandings, one day it was my French-Irish kid’s turn to be terrified by police. Just one afternoon, and yet the toll a police officer’s gun to the head took on the emotional sturdiness of a happy-go-lucky adolescent boy was a long time in unwinding. In our very mixed neighborhood, a white kid coming home from school and climbing over our locked fence struck an out-of-state visitor across the street as suspicious. When the police responded to the call, it struck them as suspicious too. Surely he didn’t belong in this neighborhood and was up to no good. When he answered their door knocks, they hauled him out of his home and pulled a weapon on him on the back porch. He protested that he hadn’t broken in, that he lived here. They brought him back into the house to prove it with a photograph. Finally a photo was found in a bedroom, and the siege ended. Fortunately, that was our one-off encounter with the wrong side of the LBPD, but for us it blew wide open a window onto how dangerous assumptions can be about who belongs where and who doesn’t and how quickly things escalate. (Remember Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s arrest for “breaking into” his own home?) That African-American parents have to have the “talk” with their kids because over the course of their lives this will routinely happen to them, the institutionalized assumption that they’re up to no good — whether bird-watching, jogging, coming home with candy from the corner store — it’s unimaginably heartbreaking. To be told at a young age that being in the public square means different levels of risk for different skin colors can only be life-altering, confidence-destroying.

Mitch took these photos on June 2, 2020, in Hollywood, California.

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5 Responses to oversharing 6/4/20

  1. You’re not over-sharing at all. These are unprecedented times, and anything that helps us understand is important. Despite despite a lifetime of activism, I feel like I am only just beginning to understand my white privilege. Let us devoutly hope that something better comes out of all this.

  2. ks says:

    LBPD is lucky you didn’t sue their ass. Ok for the law to check out a possible break in , but weapons for something minor like that are out of bounds. I’m sorry your family had to go through this, but I maybe it raised empathy for those who don’t sport our white skin and are judged by what they are and not by what they do.

  3. Denise says:

    @Hi Jane, I’m hoping right along with you!
    @Hi Kathy, it definitely was an empathy-raising encounter. And it was at least 3 officers handling one unarmed (obviously!) frightened kid. We did head to the PD afterwards to discuss but they circle the wagons pretty fast. My neighbor’s mother visiting from Maine felt awful for calling the cops. yikes. Otherwise we’ve been privileged to have good encounters with LBPD, the normal, helpful kind of interactions everybody is entitled to have.

  4. What a scary interaction that must have been for your young’n. I can’t imagine that being the norm.

  5. Lori says:

    Thanks for this post. The silence/indifference from some of my white friends has been really dispiriting. This shit has got to stop. Change needs to happen, starting with us white people. I’ve been doing a lot of eye-opening reading these last two weeks and it’s shifted my world view in a big way. Major structural change needs to happen, but I’m very worried about how it’s going to play out with the combo of protests/COVID/Trump. I think it’s going to be rough ride, but hoping for a better world and major structural change for the better at the end of it.

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