Saturday, August 30, 2014

We Hold These Truths to be Self Evident

Poster by Mary Engelbreit. See her post and link
to purchase to help the family of Michael Brown.
http://bit.ly/1lwt68e
"...That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

I really wanted to write about freedom as a writer. How scary it is for me, someone who struggles with focus and doesn’t see the obvious path in a story. When you have infinite choices, it can be a problem. But, because of what happened to Michael Brown and Eric Garner and all the people whose names I don't know because we have no national reporting system for Police shootings in this country, I felt I needed to talk about Freedom in a bigger way.

I grew up in an urban area where there was a significant amount of diversity. It’s fair to say I was picked on because of my white skin, red hair and freckles. I was called, “goat, whitey, cracker, spots” and other fun things that made me feel different and isolated. However, when I left school every day and went into the larger world? I took my white skin with me. I knew that, even then.

When I was eight, a couple moved in next door. Tim and Carol. They were kind and laughed a lot and I don’t quite remember how I found my way over to their apartment. Tim taught me how to play dominoes and Carol taught me how to do the hustle. Then, they would both sit on the couch, endlessly, and cheer me on as I butchered the dance moves. They were also fond of Barbara Streisand and they played her records for me. Over and over and over. Carol dug out a microphone (actually, she probably went out and bought it), and plugged it in so I could sing “Evergreen” in stereo. Over and over and over. I’m sure the neighbors loved it. They fed me snacks and chased me with pillows and we watched silly television together. They own a piece of who I am as a writer because they offered a place for me to escape to.

As a kid, I always wondered why they left their door wide open while I was there.

Now I understand.

Perhaps any couple would have done that. Being alone with a child could open you up to all sorts of accusations. But I don’t think so.
 
They were black. And I was white.

I’ve thought about this often over the years. And I’ve wondered what my responsibility is. Is acknowledging my white privilege enough? What about raising my three daughters to be compassionate, to stand up for what they believe is right. Is that enough?

I don’t know.
SPENCER PLATT/GETTY IMAGES
Article from Vanity Fair talking about how they are to
retrain police after the killing of Eric Garner because of an
illegal choke hold. http://vnty.fr/1tWhIBK

But here is one small something we can do. While reading articles on the internet over the last few weeks, I discovered that we have no organization, federal or state, who oversees police shootings. No one is tracking it. Not the FBI or the CIA or anyone you might think would be responsible to follow such things. If this isn't an example of the ostrich with it's head deep in the sand, I don't know what is. How are we supposed to hold people accountable and fix what, obviously, isn't working, if we don't compile this data?

There is movement called Fatal Encounters, people who have come together to try and compile data on police shootings covering the years from 2011-2013. They are crowdsourcing, so we can all help. Go here for more information. You don't have to give anything but a small amount of time. One scary statistic reported by the Los Angeles Times said that almost 10% of gun deaths in Los Angeles County in 2011 were police shootings. The article is here.

When I see wrong in the world, it bothers me to know I can’t change it, or change people. I know I can’t fix racism or the amount of people who die in police shootings. But. I can do my part by not looking the other way. I can speak up. I can continue to support my kids when they speak up. I can be open to diversity in my stories and support others who do the same. I can honor the freedom I’ve been given instead of blending in, being invisible.

Too many people are invisible. Too many people do nothing. Let’s not be those people.

Let’s honor our freedom.

5 comments:

  1. I'm learning just how important diversity truly is in our stories. Thanks for this, Tracy.

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  2. One voice crying out in the darkness CAN be heard! A powerful reminder for all of us to stand up for what is right. Thanks Tracy.

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  3. What a moving post, Tracy. A national tracking system seems like a no-brainer. Thanks for the link to Fatal Encounters.

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  4. Tracy--this was such a beautiful post. It took my breath away.

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