I have written and deleted this first sentence about 50 times. I don’t know where to start, and in this politically correct world, I don’t want anyone to misread my intentions. After the shootings in Minnesota, Baton Rouge, and Dallas, my heart aches. I just read a Facebook post from an old friend that was talking about Black Lives Matter. Honestly, I rarely read the rants and generally scroll through. Not because I am insensitive, but because it feels like I am being prodded to pick a side. I can either stand with law enforcement or I can stand with the black community. Pardon the pun, but the issue is not black and white. Some may say it’s not about race. I learned something about relationships a long time ago. If someone in the relationship thinks there is a problem, there is a problem. This is regardless of whether or not the other party agrees. If my best friend feels that I am disregarding her feelings, the issue should be addressed. If I don’t feel my husband is listening to me, the problem needs to be discussed. If my sons say I am not spending enough time with them, I should take their pleas seriously and adjust accordingly. You see, saying, “Well you’re looking at it wrong” and moving on only fuels the fire, sets the problem in concrete only to come back later, unresolved. The preface to the above mentioned Facebook post read, *Empathy Wanted*.
Wait. I understand that I am not exactly an expert on this topic. I am a privileged white woman in suburbia and have never been a victim of racism. The truth is, I probably never will. I do not have grandparents that can tell me horrendous stories of unthinkable cruelty they endured simply because of the color of their skin. But I do know what it’s like to feel like you aren’t being heard. I know the frustration of not having your feelings acknowledged. I switch from heartache to anger when someone downplays my struggle.
I also know what fear feels like. Working in a psychiatric hospital with a large, protruding pregnant belly with a very psychotic patient fixated on your unborn baby, knowing others that have lost their babies from kicks to the stomach in the same situation will evoke both terror and anger at the possibility. With a heightened startle reflex and my jaw sore from being unknowingly clenched for an entire shift, I drive home numb.
I believe that hatred is fueled by fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of change, fear of violence. Ironically, this same fear can turn into irrational thinking, hatred, unnecessary anxiety, and more of the very violence that you fear.
But what if….just what if, we tried to hear the cries of the unheard. We acknowledged that people in this relationship we call humanity are being cast aside because the other party simply doesn’t understand. My heart aches for the people that live in fear. My heart aches for the people that don’t feel heard. My heart aches for the police officers that want to serve and protect but are targeted by misguided people that have let the hatred take over. My heart aches for the black community that endures prejudice and preconceived stereotypes every day. My heart aches for the people that can’t see that the hatred that we have let creep into our hearts is from ignorance.
Did you know there are protests that are peaceful? That don’t involve violence or looting? I witnessed the protests in Mckinney, Texas where the people were plentiful, but the violence was absent. Did you know that these horrific events have led to many races coming together in prayer? Did you know all police officers aren’t hotheaded bigots? That all muslims aren’t suicide bombers or member of ISIS and are just as repulsed by the violence as you are? Did you know all Christians aren’t two faced hypocrites that use their faith as a way to cast judgment and feel superior to others? Did you know that if we just listened to each other we would see that while we have vastly different life experiences, we share the same human race? We share the same emotions (even if they are regarding different things) and we share the same need to be heard?
My sons idolize law enforcement. When they see a policeman or woman, their eyes get big and their faces light up. It’s like they are seeing a real life super hero that they’ve only read about or seen on tv. My heart would be broken if their wonder was replaced with fear, panic, or hatred.
I will never know what it’s like to be a black man. I will never know what it’s like to be a police officer. But I know what it’s like to need empathy. I know what it’s like to need to feel loved and heard. I know what it’s like to experience fear. We have people in this relationship that are saying there is a problem. I pray we learn to listen. I pray we learn to give empathy. Above all, I pray we can remember that we are all in this together. Or at least we should be…