On My Mind

You have before you my first non-introductory post for The Space Between. (Though I expect each of my posts to have something of an introductory feel for a while.) Very exciting.
I thought it would be good to get into the habit of regularly sharing with you some of the little things that are on my mind, politics and current-event wise. So I hereby establish “On My Mind,” a weekly round-up of the articles, news segments, thoughts, ideas, and questions I have rattling around in my brain. I plan to post them on Thursdays, and if I can get to that lucky number of seven items, link up with 7 Quick Takes Friday, which is hosted by Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum


The past ten or so days have felt like a watershed moment for our country. The deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Philando Castile in Minnesota, and the five police officers in Dallas – they seem heavy and unreal, like a terrible dream. They dominate the news and my mind, yet so far I’ve kept quiet about them.

Because I don’t know what to say.

Police officers hug outside Mary Immaculate Catholic Church in Farmers Branch, Texas, during the July 12 visitation for slain Dallas police Sgt. Michael Smith. Smith, a member of the parish, was one of five officers killed when a gunman opened fire at a July 7 protest in downtown Dallas. (CNS photo/Carlo Allegri, Reuters) 

I can’t think of a thing to say that’s not inadequate. I can’t put together my thoughts in a way that would accurately express my feelings or appropriately honor the lives that have been lost. I’ve been trying, but so far I just haven’t been able to make it work.

So for the moment, I’ll just point you to a few of the pieces on the subject that have resonated with me.

Of all the theories I’ve heard that have tried to explain police violence against African Americans, this is the one that has made the most sense to me. In a nutshell, the author (a black man and a former police officer) argues that 15 percent of police officers will do the right thing no matter what, 15 percent will abuse power whenever they can, and the actions of the remaining 70 percent will be influenced by the cultures of their departments. Sounds to me like a good rule for the public at large, so I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it applied to the police in particular.
Yesterday’s speech by Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) on race and law enforcement.

Senator Tim Scott’s speech regarding his own personal encounters with police as a black man (as well as those of his friends and family) was moving and sobering. The injustice that he and others face on a regular basis is just mind-boggling to me. Which, I suspect, was the whole point of him making such a speech at all.
“I simply ask you this: Recognize that just because you do not feel the pain, the anguish of another, does not mean it does not exist.”
The author emphasizes the importance of personal experience in coloring one’s view on how prevalent racial discrimination is.
“There was a time when I’d look at those numbers, shake my head, and think that white America had it about right. I grew up in rural Kentucky, and while I encountered a few overt racists in high school, I never heard from them again after I left for college . . . Then my wife and I adopted a black child, and my perspective changed. In the last six years, I’ve experienced more racially charged moments than in my previous 41 combined — and it runs both ways.”
I think I found his take particularly interesting because I’ve recently been noticing a shift in my own personal experience of race. I grew up in a community that included a lot of African Americans. I always had black classmates, colleagues and friends. And other than when I was in college, every town I’d ever lived in had a decently diverse racial mix.
Until now. Now I live in the least-diverse place I ever have. Now my sons know what it’s like to be in classrooms made up entirely of white children. (An experience I never had.) Now I notice when I run into a black person in the store. I find the experience more unnerving than I would have ever expected.
I mentioned above that I don’t know what to say regarding race and police brutality, the black men who have been killed and the police officers who have been killed. But that I’ve been trying.
I’ve been trying to write on race for years, ever since starting my personal blog. I still can’t get the whole thing right, but here’s one section that came kind of close:
“Not long ago, my three-year-old son pointed out to me that he and his brother, and me, and his father, all have ‘the same kind of skin.’ We have light skin, he said. The implication being that there are people with skin that is other than ours.
His observation unsettled me a little. Is he so old, already, to be noticing such things?
A moment later, I was pacified by the recollection of reading recently (where did I read it?) that children start noticing race at the age of three. And I gave what I believe to be the appropriate response to his question: ‘Yes, in our family we all have light skin. Other people have different colors of skin, don’t they? It doesn’t matter, though. People are people. Sometimes our skin just looks a little different.’
Now, I don’t begrudge my son his curiosity or his interest in making observations. I wasn’t unsettled because his brain has registered a range of pigmentation. I was unsettled because with his observation, he’s on the cusp of inheriting the persistent, uncomfortable, even insidious burden of race.
The thought gives me a sinking feeling.
From my perspective – my white, middle-class, somewhat-southern, raised-in-a-diverse-community, now-living-in-a-decidedly-not-diverse-community perspective – I think race continues to divide and define our society more than we’d like to admit.
And I hate that. I hate the division. I hate the definition. I hate the not admitting. I hate that my boys’ background and skin color will place them in a camp that they bear no responsibility for constructing. I hate that the issue continues to hurt so many who likewise bear no responsibility for the camps they find themselves in. I hate that there’s no end in sight.”
(Moving on to other topics here.)
I really liked this post, which hits on many of the same points that I’ve made a habit of hitting on myself. (Including in Monday’s introductory post.) But please excuse the language – it’s certainly not how I choose to express myself.
“What is emerging is the worst kind of echo chamber, one where those inside are increasingly convinced that everyone shares their world view, that their ranks are growing when they aren’t. It’s like clockwork: an event happens and then your social media circle is shocked when a non-social media peer group public reacts to news in an unexpected way. They then mock the Other Side for being ‘out of touch’ or ‘dumb.’ . . .
When someone communicates that they are not ‘on our side’ our first reaction is to run away or dismiss them as stupid. To be sure, there are hateful, racist, people not worthy of the small amount of electricity it takes just one of your synapses to fire. I’m instead referencing those who actually believe in an opposing viewpoint of a complicated issue, and do so for genuine, considered reasons. Or at least, for reasons just as good as yours.
This is not a “political correctness” issue. It’s a fundamental rejection of the possibility to consider that the people who don’t feel the same way you do might be right. It’s a preference to see the Other Side as a cardboard cut out, and not the complicated individual human beings that they actually are.”
That’s all I’ve got for now. I have a baby to take care of, boys to get to swim lessons and a van to pack for the beach. On very little sleep, because: baby, boys, beach and the busyness that is summer and hosting an international visitor for the month. I’ve pretty much run myself ragged.
But hey! We went berry picking yesterday, which somehow makes the world a little sweeter. Even if for just a while.

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.