By now many of you have read the headlines on this story. A Tulsa police helicopter recorded a disturbing video of a black man standing outside his SUV which was stopped in the middle of the road. Terence Crutcher can be seen with his hands up, the guns of several police officers trained on him. In the video we see him walk toward his vehicle with his hands raised, then he is shot and killed.
It is no secret that our country is currently in the throes of serious racial strife. It has permeated every aspect of our culture, even making its way into to NFL.
While black homicides perpetrated by police may be statistically low, they resonate very highly on the social justice scale.
I regularly receive messages from readers (mostly white, but not all) who tell me they are experiencing racial fatigue. Some of my white readers feel they are constantly unfairly being blamed for bigotry and racism when they feel they don’t actively engage in such disgusting ideology. Some of my non-white readers say they are exhausted by the feeling that the only subject they are allowed to discuss and be heard on is race and that’s the only lens white people seem to view them through.
Everyone is tired. I get it.
However, its important not let fatigue push you away from a situation that needs to be addressed. During the now infamous Michael Brown “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” situation part of this country literally burned over a narrative that has since been proven untrue. Brown didn’t have his hands up, he wasn’t walking away, but the narrative grabbed hearts and minds and here we are.
Its important to note that the story grew legs because the underlying emotion was already present and bubbling to the surface. Black Americans are feeling disenfranchised, removed from authority in their own lives and pushed to the edges of mainstream society. We can sit and pontificate about all the reasons why but its important to understand that no matter the reason, this is the present.
When we dismiss the anger of people who feel ignored we are dismissing their humanity. So what if you don’t agree with their reasoning? It doesn’t mean that what they’re feeling isn’t real.
Now we have this horrific video of Terence Crutcher being gunned down with his hands up. Now is when we should be uniting behind “Hands up, Don’t shoot” because here we are seeing the underlying impetus for that original message right in front of us.
While its true that we don’t know all of the circumstances of this situation, it is also undeniable that Crutcher’s race played at least a small part in his demise. Even if he was resisting in some way, I’ve seen too many stories about white suspects being subdued, tazed, overwhelmed by law enforcement and brought in to face justice. There is something about seeing a black man in a possibly threatening situation that heightens the tension and leads to this type of tragedy.
Again, even if you disagree with me (oh, the comments section on this one is going to be fun today) it doesn’t release you from your responsibility as an American to recognize that some of your fellow citizens are frightened, confused and angry.
A while ago, after yet another shooting I was so hurt and overwhelmed by the responses on all sides that I stopped my car on the way to the gym and turned on Facebook Live. I had no idea who I was talking to, but I needed an outlet. The video ended up generating over 18,000 views. In it I discuss why I think we need to have an honest conversation about race, but also why I think its nearly impossible to do so at this point.
You can watch it here, but basically its about grace and who is willing to extend it and under what circumstances.
As we sort out what happened in Tulsa I beg all of you to extend some grace to each other. Don’t make assumptions, don’t make blanket judgments. Think about how you would feel if the officer who shot Crutcher was your mother or wife or sister. Think about how you would feel if the man who was shot was your father or husband or brother.
Do not turn away from this just because you’re sick and tired.
Think about how other people are viewing this and what it means to them. You don’t have to agree with their conclusions or sentiments, but you can’t lose by just listening. That goes for all of us. Everyone. I don’t care where your opinions lie on this. We all need to take responsibility for what is happening in this nation with race relations. We all have to have the courage to hear and say hard things.
All of us. Every. Last. Person.