This is not what I planned to write and post this month.
I write about stretching and growing our minds and spirits. And my latest post – that kind of blog post – is sitting in my Drafts folder in WordPress, waiting for me to hit the Publish button.
But that draft feels irrelevant today. North Carolina’s Governor has declared a State of Emergency in Charlotte, North Carolina, my home for almost 20 years. So, I must write this post instead.
My husband and I come from families with legacies of deep faith, hard work, and love for others. We stand on the shoulders of our parents, grandparents, and many more we’ve known and never knew – people far from perfection, but good to the core.
We instill their legacies in our own children. We teach them about God’s love and using the gifts He’s given them to make a positive difference. About respect for themselves and others. About how to think critically and make good decisions. About having courage to pursue their dreams and to stand up for what’s right. About everyday heroes like educators and nurses and, yes, police officers who know and love the communities they serve.
That the world has all kinds of people – some who use their lives for good, and others who do not. And that a person’s zip code, race, and income have nothing to do with this fact.
But it doesn’t feel like we’re doing enough. Our lessons are starting to feel woefully inadequate.
Another African-American man has been killed by someone sworn to protect and serve us all. Two nights of protest followed – make that three nights, including tonight –, and understandably so. But Night #2 included looting – a deep disappointment for those of us who seek answers and justice peacefully.
Am I frustrated, angry and sad by the whole story? Yes. Am I just as frustrated, angry and sad by black-on-black crime, too? You bet.
But current events surrounding the death of Keith Lamont Scott trouble me in a particularly poignant way. Maybe because all of it is unfolding so close to home. Maybe because it follows a recent, similar incident in Tulsa after a long line of other similar incidents across the U.S.
Or, maybe because it all feels so random and just won’t seem to end. That those of us with brown or black skin are sitting ducks, subject to the same fate as others in the news. That others fear us simply and only because of our skin color. That any of us can be deemed dangerous in the blink of an eye – and, as a result, boldly snuffed out in broad daylight, on camera.
And that our deaths will be explained away. Rationalized. Justified. Taken for granted.
These moments are not America’s finest. They make me feel that I, my husband, my children and other loved ones are simply not as valued as much as my colleagues, neighbors, or friends of other races.
And, that, dear readers, is what second class citizenship feels like.
It’s why my father wore his U.S. Army uniform rather than civilian clothes when he traveled across the Mason-Dixon line in the 1950s.
It’s why my brother chose to live abroad as an expatriate for 20 years.
It’s why my husband wears a suit and tie even when others show up in business-casual attire.
It’s why folks of all backgrounds are protesting again tonight in Charlotte.
Because, imagine this:
You’re a law-abiding, respectful citizen. But life has shown you that others may quickly misjudge, mislabel and mistreat you because of how you look.
So, you walk on eggshells when leaving home each day. You police yourself while doing the little ordinary things of life to signal that you’re not a threat to others. Drive under the speed limit. Greet the salesperson while shopping. Keep your hands in plain sight when navigating crowds. And you pray for your family’s safety, trying not to worry especially about your husband and son.
It is not illogical or paranoid to feel this way in 2016 America. Until incidents like Charlotte, Tulsa and Cleveland end completely, quite frankly it’s hard to imagine feeling otherwise.
But I, for one, would sure like the option of doing so.