Time to change filters

Published 1:10 am Wednesday, December 10, 2014

My skin is not black. I will never experience what it is like to be a black person living in America.

What I know is what it is like to be a white person reared during the time of the civil rights movement. I know racism was a reality when I was a child. So, I realize even if there were no racist comments allowed in my house, I heard them out in the world. It is hard, if not impossible, not to have that seep into your consciousness.

Nowadays when I see reports about crimes, more often than not the face on the screen is black. Again, that seeps into your consciousness. As much as I try to remain open-minded and non-judgmental, when I see a black person that reminds me of one I saw on the news, I feel anxious and a bit fearful.

At no point in my life have I been a police officer. I have no frame of reference when it comes to the demands of policing a community. My grandfather was a policeman and I know he was an honorable man who did his best to be fair to everyone, no matter their looks or the color of their skin. Since that was my experience as a child, I thought all police were fine.

When I got older, I had an experience of being stopped and a policeman who said, “Just wanted to see who you were.“ It scared me a little.

Then, there was a time a police car followed my college-aged son, who had long hair and drove a red Mustang, through a small town probably because of his looks. Because of those incidents, if a police vehicle pulls up behind me with its light flashing, my stomach clinches and I feel fear. I did not say my reaction was rational or correct, but it is how I react.

I say this to explain that we filter things through personal experiences, and that is true of every human alive, including black people, white people and police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, New York City and everywhere else in this country. Unfortunately, the filter most of the world seems to see through these days is fear, and when we fear we go a little crazy.

Fear changes our reactions toward each other. Fear causes us to stop seeing each other as human beings with more things that make us alike than different. Fear has us choose sides and then fight to prove our side is the right one. There is no love when the filter is fear.

Mixed emotions swirled around in me when I heard about the events that took place recently and about the protests around the country because of them. On the one hand, I have no doubt racism is still with us and racial profiling is a reality. However, I also know there are black people (yes, white people, too) who commit crimes and police deal with this all the time.

Finally, it comes down to one reality on both sides of this issue — we have some stuff we need to deal with, now. Things can change, but it is up to every one of us to start looking at ourselves and at how we react to each other — especially our reactions to those we perceive as “different” from us.

Something posted on Facebook by Stop Labeling summed it up. It said:

Not all cops are bad.

Not all black people are criminals.

Not all white people are racists.

No, my skin is not black. I’m not a police officer. That isn‘t going to change, but I can work on changing the filters, that conditioning, that causes me to react from fear instead of love.

You know if we all did that we might see an end to incidents like the ones in Ferguson and New York City.