I’m calling myself out on a double standard. After careful review, I have to be honest with myself and I hope I can bring some personal reckoning for people who agree.
This summer, I was angry that I had to ensure I had a conversation with the young people of my family about what to do when you are stopped by the police. Not just a standard discussion on treating them with respect, but a deeper and detailed conversation about how not to get shot. I was upset that this same conversation had been occurring in black households since slavery and are just as relevant today. I was upset that this undying effect of slavery and symptom of racism in our Country did not have a concrete solution.
Despite all of this outward pointed anger, I experienced a strong hypocritical moment in my life. My fifteen-year-old niece asked me to take her to the high school football game opener against the neighboring rival school. Of course! What is more American than football games and apple pie. That is the place that a teenager is supposed to be able to get a little freedom as they learn the world. A place where there will be parents, teachers, and security to ensure safety. I would happily allow her to cheer on her school to help her build a sense of community. While we waited in the game traffic to get close to her group of friends I gave her what I initially though were traditional warnings. Watch your surroundings. Pay attention to who is around you. Stay with your friends. Don’t go off in the dark alone. I have eyes everywhere, so represent me well. But then the conversation went further…. “If you see a fight break out go in the opposite direction.” “And if you see someone with a weapon get away from there.”
Why do I have to give those final disturbing warnings? Why is that even a thought I have or a thought I am comfortable with? Why did I allowed her to go to the game? That night the football game did get cancelled and there was a need for police and ambulance intervention. We are not talking just about teen hormones leading to a heated exchange of words or fist fight over he said, she said. We are talking about potential life and death circumstances had things gone wrong. Now, suddenly I’m pissed. I’m far too comfortable with the danger from armed teens ruining events in my suburban community. I’m equally pissed I have to warn my female teen to protect her against sexual assault. Another offense that happens far too often to naive young girls yet still not the source of discomfort leading to this opinion, which is equally disturbing.
A retrospective review of the discussion put me in a mood. Shouldn’t we all be as pissed about violence in our community schools as I am about excessive force by the police. Yet I have to ask myself, am I? I can’t honestly say I am certain. What about the rest of the community? I wasn’t the only adult that allowed their teens to venture to this event. I have to be clear that even with the current mass shootings throughout the country, my warning was not based on fears of an armed gunman shooting several rounds out of a AR-15. I am talking about handguns in the hands of teens who will pull out a gun rather than lose a fist fight.
Even more disturbing is I am certain about one thing. I am certain that I have to be concerned that by even putting these questions on paper and asking them to a larger audience, it could easily be deemed that I am breaking the a black code. Although not an “official” thing, there is an unwritten rule that you don’t criticize your own community and you certainly don’t air our dirty laundry in the general public. We have seen the backlash against people who once were the gold standard for our community. Remember the now partially discredited Bill Cosby’s statements about the black community. I’m not so certain that his loss of support in the black community began with his criticism and not the sexual assault allegations.
Shouldn’t we be honest about that dirty laundry. We don’t have to air it? People already know! This week, Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, attempted to reach out to the black community by insinuating that ALL black communities are crime ridden and he has a plan to fix that? “Excuse me Mr. Trump…” was how I began the tweet discussing my own safe community that is filled with two parent households that are entrepreneurs and pretty well employed. By the end of the week I had to face a reality. Not that Donald Trump was correct. Of course not he is an idiot. But that my offense at his comment indicated a comfort, disregard, or willingness to be blinded to what is in fact in my own back yard.
How to we fix a problem we are not ready to address. Typically, a news report on this type of story is pushed off as the media’s attempt to show our communities in a bad light. The typical follow up, “Why does the media never appear for the good things we do?” Or even more specific, “but they didn’t mention it was not children at either school.” Who cares when it occurs in OUR communities’ year after year? Not giving the media a pass for any intentional or unintentional bias, however, they can’t report bad stuff if it doesn’t happen right? And without those reports, Donald Trump and his followers cannot hide their racism around data, numbers, and factual scenarios.
So what is the solution? That depends on what you identify as the biggest problem. I’ll presume some of the standard arguments, parenting, better security, the need for more or less guns, even gates. My suggestion is simple. This presidential election is forcing us to think about the “image of America.” So let’s reconcile the image we play in our head with our true surroundings. While we are evaluating each and every comment of people running for office let’s take a look in the mirror and think about how our comfort level with everyday occurrences in our communities and address them. Whether you are black or white, urban or suburban, we may all need to check our double standards to see what we may be missing in our own back yards.