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Let’s NOT Talk About Charlotte

Woo. This is heavy, so hold on and stay with me. I’ve been working on this post for the past couple of weeks. In that short time, it seems like any helpful speech has ceased. Are we waiting for the next incident, the next victim, whether civilian or officer? 



Everybody is talking. Talking can be good.  It can be productive, but only when someone is listening.  We see it in our kids all the time. I’m constantly saying, “Listen to me. Close your mouth and open your ears so you can understand me.” It’s a hard lesson to learn and one we have to keep learning over and over again. The need to be heard and understood is strong. So, when people offer “talking” as a vehicle to resolution and healing, especially in places like Charlotte over the past days and weeks, I want to say, “No, let’s just….nope.  Not going to do it.” We need to LISTEN. We need to HUSH UP. Because, ya’ll.  Seriously.  My soul is hurting.  Isn’t yours?  I drop my kids off at school and I look around at all these little faces and hands and see how small they are and I know that they are all worth us stopping and listening. Here’s the thing: I can’t just sit and hurt. I want to hear what people are saying. And it’s going to be hard. Truth is so hard. But I’m going to listen. I’ve asked some people some questions about how they are feeling and I want you to listen to what they shared with me. There are no names. I don’t think it’s necessary. Because these people had the time in the safety of their own spaces, they were able to think with out rushing to be heard. They chose their words carefully without using hateful speech. They were honest.

I’m not a journalist. Far from it. I wrote these questions and I know they’re simple, just a beginning.  Somewhere to start. I use the word “event(s)” to describe Charlotte not to take any significance away from what happened, but to try my best to stay neutral. Also, we should recognize that Charlotte is just one place of many that we could be discussing. I asked that they leave blank any question they were uncomfortable answering. Some chose not to participate and I completely respect that. Thanks to those who did.

Person 1

Tell me about yourself (i.e. age, race, hometown, profession, etc.)

36yo F from Nashville, TN, now living in Nashville after a living in New York City and Durham, NC. I am a surgeon, focused on breast cancer. I am Black.

Have the events in Charlotte affected you? How?

Yes, it feels very close to home. Even though I no longer live in NC, I was there long enough to consider it one of my homes. Also, I’m sick of this happening in general.

Describe a time/situation in which you felt judged/targeted because of who you are or what you look like.

In all honesty given my two professions in white male dominated fields in addition to just living life, I feel judged/targeted probably at least once a week. Here are a few briefly.

– Pt who looks astonished when I enter the room, and do a number of ridiculous things – ask me if I went to med school in this country, refers constantly to male surgeons their friends told them about, look me up and down frequently, squirm. Usually they calm down once they understand I know what I’m doing. Sometimes they get second opinions.

– In the playground my very young child was told “black people can’t do anything” at age two because she could not go across the monkey bars, by a six year old white little girl.

– Another time in the playground when my child was three, she was trying to play with other little girls – they called her a monster and said we don’t play with girls like you – this is very heartbreaking shit to deal with and she is only a toddler at the time this occurs.

– My husband almost NEVER got a cab in NY, if with another black couple, the two women would step out and get the cab because cabs will often stop for black women. If it was just the two of us, it was too humiliating so I would patiently wait until someone stopped or we’d excitedly decide to take the train or something and just ignore it so it didn’t ruin our night.

– Direct quote from former investment banking superior about why my account was taken from me and given to a more junior white male colleague…”Well, we don’t want to put your face out there to the client.”

– Patient in residency – “I’m not letting no black person operate on me”

– I have to serve on every committee as faculty because in our entire surgical department of probably 60 there are only two Black faculty, both women – so we are needed for diversity

– During residency I was mistaken for housekeeping/foodservice at least 400 times.

– My music has been turned off/changed in the OR. This sounds silly, but it would NEVER be done to a white male, and probably not a white female because I’ve been in rooms where everyone HATED the music, but no one dare change the music the operating surgeon selected.

– In kindergarten I was the only Black child in my class and I was routinely called an alien, and even once was called the “n” word.

– Ok, that’s enough

What’s your favorite food?

Mango

Brie cheese

chocolate

Wine (not food but it needed to be on the list!)

Do you trust the mainstream media to portray events such as the one in Charlotte in an unbiased light?

Not at all, I don’t trust the media to portray ANYTHING in an unbiased light

Is your point-of-view represented in your community?

If you have a child or children, have these recent events changed the way you parent?

Sadly, it makes me glad she not a boy. Even when I was pregnant before I knew the sex, I felt afraid of having a Black boy. None of these issues are new. I don’t think its changed how I parent though. I would have had to deal with these issues in my daughter’s life so I was already parenting in a way to make her strong, proud of who she is, kind to others and resilient. I’m not surprised by anything that’s happening. Its just more visible now with social media.

What’s your favorite color?

purple

If you had a chance to speak with a diverse group of people, what would you want them to know?

I would have them watch Camara Jones’ TED talk. It explains everything I feel about the issue.

What is fear to you?

How can we help each other?

Stop talking about color blindness and start being color aware and gender aware and immigrant aware so that we all recognize the atrocities done to people just because of societally imposed divisions.

Person 2

Tell me about yourself (i.e. age, race, hometown, profession, etc.)
34; Columbia, SC; I’ m a CPA/tax attorney. I teach taxation in the UNC system.

Have the events in Charlotte affected you? How?
No.

Describe a time/situation in which you felt judged/targeted because of who you are or what you look like.
The only time I could ever say this happened is when I was judged on my age. I am 34, but I was a senior manager in a fortune 100 company when I was 22 and was regularly judged based on my apparent age.

What’s your favorite food?
Thai Basil Chicken/beef

Do you trust the mainstream media to portray events such as the one in Charlotte in an unbiased light?
Yes

Is your point-of-view represented in your community?
Not really; I’m a liberal democrat living in the rural south.

If you have a child or children, have these recent events changed the way you parent?
No.

What’s your favorite color?
Blue

If you had a chance to speak with a diverse group of people, what would you want them to know?
That not all WASPs are anti-diversity. Some are just as liberal as the next person.

What is fear to you?
Uncertainty

How can we help each other?
By listening and changing our behavior based on what we hear.

Person 3

Tell me about yourself (i.e. age, race, hometown, profession, etc.)

• 34, Black, Gay, Woman from Columbia, SC

• Currently reside in Northern California with my wife

Have the events in Charlotte affected you? How?

• Yes. Keith Lamont Scott’s death (preceded by that of Terence Crutcher) is yet another chapter in the never-ending struggle for Black Lives to be valued equally.

• Police brutality/disparate treatment against blacks is real. This is caused by, and is related to, various things; to name a few:

black teens are perceived to be older, less innocent than whites of the same age (http://www.apa.org/…/rele…/2014/03/black-boys-older.aspx), are generally perceived as more criminal (www.sagepub.com/gabbidonstudy/articles/Welch.pdf), are sentenced to harsher punishments (http://www.sentencingproject.org/…/rd_sentencing_review…), and are 21 times more likely to be killed by police than whites (http://www.propublica.org/…/deadly-force-in-black-and…). There are even studies showing that people are faster to shoot black rather than white suspects, though more recent experiments have had mixed results on this (http://www.policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index.cfm…).

• These are facts, scary facts that make ME (an ivy-educated Black woman) afraid to walk the street unaccompanied.

Describe a time/situation in which you felt judged/targeted because of who you are or what you look like.

• On multiple occasions I’ve gone to the local CVS/Walgreens store in my Saturday casual wear (think sweat pants, nice sneakers and a Dartmouth-branded hoodie) and have been followed around the store by security guards and store clerks. The sad thing, is that if any overt mistreatment is to be leveled at me – I want it to be this kind – at least there are store cameras running (albeit to protect their merchandise, not me).

What’s your favorite food?

• Chicken and broccoli.

Do you trust the mainstream media to portray events such as the one in Charlotte in an unbiased light?

• Absolutely not.

Is your point-of-view represented in your community?

• I’d have to ask my community, but I don’t think I’m an outlier.

If you have a child or children, have these recent events changed the way you parent?

• They’ve made me question whether or not we (my partner and i) want to actively bring a child of color into this world. It’s a shame.

What’s your favorite color?

• Don’t have one.

If you had a chance to speak with a diverse group of people, what would you want them to know?

• To my majority family members: We’re past a point of needing allies, we need accomplices. If you’ve got a moment, read this: http://www.awesomelyluvvie.com/2016/09/white-people-anti-racism.html

• To my minority family members: while it can be said that a “system cannot fail those it was never built to protect” that doesn’t mean that we can’t step up and demand construction of NEW systems built to protect us all.

What is fear to you?

• Fear is inaction.

How can we help each other?

• ^See above. Step up and step out. There’s never been a greater need for disrupters than the present.

Person 4

Tell me about yourself (i.e. age, race, hometown, profession, etc.)

34 year old white male from Columbia SC, Law enforcement officer

Have the events in Charlotte affected you? How?

Events like Charlotte, specifically the community unrest following police action, creates a lot of tension in the communities and begins a tidal wave of unprovoked attacks of various nature on law enforcement officers including threats on the lives of officers, assaults, and murders

Describe a time/situation in which you felt judged/targeted because of who you are or what you look like.

Every single day I put on my uniform and go to work. I am immediately judged because I am a white male wearing a police uniform. According to what is considered acceptable today, I am automatically a racist, the devil, and my life is worthless because of a job I chose to do

What’s your favorite food?

Pretty much anything Mexican

Do you trust the mainstream media to portray events such as the one in Charlotte in an unbiased light?

No, absolutely not

Is your point-of-view represented in your community?

Sometimes. As a citizen, yes absolutely. As a police officer, no

If you have a child or children, have these recent events changed the way you parent?

I don’t have children

What’s your favorite color?

Orange

If you had a chance to speak with a diverse group of people, what would you want them to know?

That people are taught racism. Acceptance of others begins at home. Respect for others begins at home. As a police officer, I have NO desire to harm or kill anyone, but I will if it saves the life of an innocent person or victim of a crime. That communities, and people in general need to be patient with major incidents involving police officers, and shootings. In many cases that have involved riots, they’re based on a false narrative or anecdotal information that turns out to be incorrect. It is ok to demand transparency in an investigation, and that people are held accountable for wrong doing, but it is IMPERATIVE that all the facts be brought forth before people act. Acting on emotion is not helpful for any side in any situation

What is fear to you?

Fear to me is the belief that something can cause you harm, either mentally or physically

How can we help each other?

Less rioting, more talking. More understanding and education for all people.

Person 5

Tell me about yourself (i.e. age, race, hometown, profession, etc.)

Age: 35

Race: White

Hometown: Elkton, VA

Profession: Manufacturing Manager (Pharma/Biotech)

Have the events in Charlotte affected you? How?

I would say that the events in Charlotte, and the rest of the country have affected me. It bothers me see the level of violence and the attention that it gets in the world. I struggle to let my daughter watch the news but want her to know the truth of the world. As to not know could endanger her later in life.

I have concerns for those who volunteer to protect us and through that service barely make a livable wage in most cities. I have concerns for the races and social groups that feel slighted and singled out. I would love to see a culture that seeks to understand first prior to passing judgement, but passions on both sides hinder this.

Describe a time/situation in which you felt judged/targeted because of who you are or what you look like.

I have always been a large individual, early in my childhood and into college that has followed me. I know I have been judged for my size and as a result have been made fun of and even excluded from certain social settings. I have worked to overcome this and have demonstrated a level of leadership and competency in my life and career that my physical appearance no longer defines me in every setting.

What’s your favorite food?

Pizza, I would eat it for every meal every day.

Do you trust the mainstream media to portray events such as the one in Charlotte in an unbiased light?

I think the only way to get an unbiased assessment in the media these days is to do your own research and take input from multiple sources. Everyone has a tendency to twist the story or skew it based on their point of view. Some broadcasters, reporters, etc. are better at removing themselves from their stories than others.

Is your point-of-view represented in your community?

I am fortunate that my point of view and my demographic are generally well represented in the community. I don’t have to go far to find a like minded group or organization. I have very rarely felt like an outsider.

If you have a child or children, have these recent events changed the way you parent?

These events have not changed the way I parent rather they give me pause and make me evaluate how much, when, and how to share these things with my daughter.

What’s your favorite color?

Blue

If you had a chance to speak with a diverse group of people, what would you want them to know?

Speaking with a diverse group could be difficult as we often make assumptions, mis-speak, or say the wrong thing. If I were speaking to or with a diverse group I would want everyone to know that I am a well intentioned individual who has made mistakes, will make mistakes, and can change when presented with information that I have been or are wrong in a given situation. That any mistake, misunderstanding, mis-spoken word is not coming from a place of hate rather from my experiences, and that I would gladly be willing to have a discussion around what biases I may have and how to change them.

Additionally diversity is the one thing that will drive change (both positive and negative) in the world. If we only associate with like minded, like cultured, like experienced, like race, like sexuality groups then we will not be challenged and we will not improve rather we will fail. If you want to grow as an individual and as a society you have to embrace diversity and what advantages it provides. Accepting diversity and managing with diversity is difficult but so worth it effort.

What is fear to you?

Fear is the feeling you get when surrounded by danger or perceived danger.

How can we help each other?

We can help each other by being open to the ideas, and beliefs of others. You don’t have to agree, you just have to respect the others point of view. Help within this culture of hate and violence can only come in the form of mutual respect and love.

Person 6

Tell me about yourself (i.e. age, race, hometown, profession, etc.)

I am a 34 year-old criminal defense attorney practicing in South Carolina for going on nine years. I was born and raised into a white, middle-class family in South Carolina and although I’ve lived all over the state, this has always been my home. My family primarily comes from outside of New Orleans, Louisiana and outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Have the events in Charlotte affected you? How?

I hope they affect all of us. These very similar events aren’t just the ones that happen in the news. They happen all over the country and we don’t hear anything about it. It causes mistrust of our law enforcement. In turn, it causes mistrust of minorities. And whether the protests are peaceful or violent, it doesn’t seem to be providing anyone any sort of understanding. It seems to be a way to vent and no change comes from it. And that’s what hurts my heart. We’re ignoring it and history is repeating itself – over and over and over and over and over and over…

Describe a time/situation in which you felt judged/targeted because of who you are or what you look like.

I haven’t! I mean, I can say people have said something because I have a weight problem, but even then it was ignorant, superficial stuff I can walk away from. I’m a white girl that drives a Mini Cooper. I’m not being targeted for anything. I’m not the subject of stop-and-frisk. This is one of the more disturbing responses I’ve had in discussing this issue. “Well, I wouldn’t care if I were stopped all the time because I’m not doing anything illegal.” (1) A lot of those targeted people aren’t doing anything illegal either. (2) You would care if you were, for example, an Arab man that was stopped 10 times a day when you’re just trying to go about doing, you know, DOING NOTHING ILLEGAL.

What’s your favorite food?

Popcorn. And I will never get tired of it. And nothing beats movie popcorn. There’s no substitute!

Do you trust the mainstream media to portray events such as the one in Charlotte in an unbiased light?

All media is biased and we all just try to get our news from the one that is closest to our views, truth be told. I love NPR and while I think that they are as factually unbiased as they can be, they still are. And my parents get their news from Fox and watching it makes me want to pull out my hair. It difficult to get the basic, no spin facts from any news source, and that really is infuriating. But in the same vein, I hope that people are free thinking enough to listen to multiple sources and take what they think they should from each place to develop their own opinions and beliefs.

Is your point-of-view represented in your community?

Yes, but it’s a minority. It’s not like a 5% minority, but it’s mostly from the youth and the minority groups. We JUST took down the Battle Flag of the Confederacy last year – that should tell you something.

If you have a child or children, have these recent events changed the way you parent?

I don’t have any children (I have a chihuahua, but he never listens), but I hope to one day. I would hope to raise a child that I can spend the time exposing to the entire world. Not just our state, not just our country, but the whole world. At the same time, I would want my child to understand the similarities and differences between us and our neighbors and why that makes us special that that makes us brothers and sisters in this day and age.

What’s your favorite color?

Green. All shades. I always wished I had green eyes.

If you had a chance to speak with a diverse group of people, what would you want them to know?

That although I cannot possibly empathize, I sympathize and I want to do whatever I can to assist change. In my line of work, I see this every day. Sometimes we say people get pulled over for “DWB” – driving while black. It sounds silly, but it’s absolutely true and disgusting. And that is on such a minor level. Getting pulled over vs. getting shot for “not complying” are on two sides of the spectrum, but one is only the beginning of the other. The amount of deadly force that’s used is unreal and unnecessary. I don’t want any of this to sound like I’m anti-law enforcement. I know a lot of great officers. But officers need better training, they need better mental health support, and they need some cultural education. I know that law enforcement takes on a difficult job, but in taking that difficult job they’re held to a much higher standard and it must be taken seriously by the officer and applied justly by the law.

What is fear to you?

Losing your feeling of safety. I should feel safe in my home, at my work, in my car, in public, in encountering law enforcement, in protesting peacefully, etc. While I feel safe in many of these places, there are so so so so many people that have a complete loss of safety in all of these places and that needs to change.

How can we help each other?

Support. Educate. Learn. Don’t blow things off because it’s not your experience. Find out what everyone else’s experiences are, form your own opinions, and become educated to help affect change. Whether it’s simply talking to your friends or joining an actual grassroots campaign to assist – it can be as simple or as involved as you want it to be and still make a great difference even if it’s just one person.

Person 7

Tell me about yourself (i.e. age, race, hometown, profession, etc.)

I’m 34 years old, originally from Columbia, SC, but currently living in Durham, NC. I’ve been a paralegal for about 8 years. I’m married, but without any kids.

Race is a harder question for me to answer as my response and answer to that has been something that’s evolved. I’ve always known I was different – I was raised and adopted by my maternal grandparents, who were both Caucasian, but I knew I was darker complected than either of them. I didn’t grow up around many/any African-Americans until I first went to school, and I knew I wasn’t as dark complected as my black classmates. As a kid, my parents, especially my father, wanted me to emphasize that I was white so as to avoid any unpleasant questions about who my birth father was. It wasn’t until I was in college that I started to get in touch with who I really was and accept that I was biracial. So alternatively I’ve answered race as “white,” “biracial,” and “human.” I say the last because I recognize race as a social construct designed for no other purpose than to contribute to “otherness.”

Have the events in Charlotte affected you? How?

I’d say the events in Charlotte affected me by bringing this even closer to home. I’ve never felt completely at home in either the white or black communities – throughout my life I’ve been told I’m too white to truly be a member of the black community and too black to truly be a member of the white community. In adulthood this has been exacerbated by the events in places like Ferguson, Cleveland, and now, Charlotte. It makes me wonder how I would be seen if I was reading in a running car while waiting for a loved one (something I’ve frequently done). Would I be placed under suspicion just for my skin color? It makes me wonder if I was just lucky that the one interaction I’ve had with law enforcement, a ticket in South Carolina for running a stop sign, was fairly positive. Was I white enough to pass? Simultaneously I’ve got several friends who are in law enforcement who I know are good people and this causes me to worry for them that they may be made more unsafe.

Describe a time/situation in which you felt judged/targeted because of who you are or what you look like.

Just about my entire dating life in high school and college falls under this umbrella. Very few of my girlfriend’s parents approved of me dating their daughters because of my race. Probably the situation that made me felt most judged was when an ex-girlfriend who was particularly religious wanted me to go with her to Shandon Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist Church in Columbia, SC. To begin with I’m not particularly religious so I already felt uncomfortable, but as we were walking from the college group meeting to the sanctuary, a little old lady, white, in her 60s maybe, affixed the both of us with a look of such abject hatred that it took me aback. She didn’t know me, I’d never interacted her, but my very presence there with my blonde-haired, blue-eyed girlfriend seemed to enrage and upset her to an extent that I’d never experience before.

What’s your favorite food?

Too hard a question for me! I love a good steak. A BLT with fresh, ripe tomato is something approaching divine. I can go on and on about how delicious Eastern Style barbeque is. I adore good Thai and Szechuan, and I love Lebanese, Turkish, and Greek. To top it all off, French pastries are a way of life. My tastes in food are as eclectic as my tastes in music – I don’t think I could pick out just one thing as my favorite food. I guess, if pushed, I’d have to go with steak.

Do you trust the mainstream media to portray events such as the one in Charlotte in an unbiased light?

No. I think the mainstream media is so beholden to page hits, subscription sales, and ad revenue, that they rely on sensationalism and thus will try to make things seem direr than they are. For instance, they largely avoided the peaceful protests in Charlotte so that they could craft a story of a city under siege that would sell newspapers, generate web hits, and generally sell. By and large I feel objective journalism has died in favor of a revival of yellow journalism. I’m at the point where the only media outlets I regularly turn to are NPR and BBC.

Is your point-of-view represented in your community?

I feel like it is. I’m a fairly progressive guy and I feel like Durham, where I live now, is a progressive city. I feel like many of my coworkers are of a similar mind, so yes, I feel my point of view is well-represented although I feel like I have to explain “the black point of view” to my white friends and family and vice versa.

If you have a child or children, have these recent events changed the way you parent?

I don’t have children.

What’s your favorite color?

Dark red/garnet

If you had a chance to speak with a diverse group of people, what would you want them to know?

I would want them all to know that despite our outward differences, we’re all more alike than different. Under the surface, despite all of our different skin tones, hair colors, ethnicities, and religions we’re all humans with similar, shared experiences and we shouldn’t allow those who are afraid of us realizing that we’re all one human race from winning the day.

What is fear to you?

Fear, to me, is either a rational response to something that is potentially life threatening or an irrational response to a situation or person so new and different that we allow our inner demons to grab ahold of us and convince ourselves that the worst will come to pass. It’s the little old lady who clutches her purse a little tighter when I walk past. It’s my mother-in-law being worried about what the neighbors/relatives/townpeople will say when they see me with my wife.

How can we help each other?

It’s about the same as I previously mentioned – we’re all one humanity and we need to do more to help each other in times of need, to understand each other, and cast off the voices who want to divide us rather than unite us.

Not every one will feel represented in the above answers. If you’d like to add your voice by providing your own answers, email me. Please know that any comment I deem hateful, hurtful, not helpful, will not be approved. My blog. My choice. Thanks.

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