I am just a Kansas mutt. I mean really, I claim an "Irish" heritage, but back in whatever grade that is that they have you trace your family lineage- I am just a mutt of a bunch of European areas.
It wasn't until I was much older and started filling out demographic forms on a regular basis that I realized how slanted and biased those forms were. There were boxes for many specific nationalities, sub sets of our American fabric; but for me- Caucasian. How generic. Once this realization hit, I was really torn with a desire to always mark "Other" and write "mutt" or "American Mutt" out to the side.
I have absolutely no frame of reference for understanding cities where having darker skin can be (and all to often is) dangerous. None. ABSOLUTELY NONE. In Kansas, life has been for the most part blessed for me. There have been trials and tribulations, but the closest thing I ever experienced to discrimination was "Oh, you live on that side of town." To be honest, when that was said to me, I didn't have any clue that was a bad thing and totally missed the put down it was intended to be. I am an avid reader both of fiction and non fiction material. I have lost myself in the stories of people who looked like me, and people who were profoundly opposite of me. However, I can never truly understand what it is like to fear the people who are supposed to protect you, to fear walking down the streets of your own neighborhood. I have never lived that life or walked in those shoes. I can not speak to that fear, nor can I pass judgement on its legitimacy.
I can however, admit it to myself and those around me that it is okay to not know first hand, but it is ignorant to pretend that it does not exist. There are LOTS of really great officers of the law out there that work hard to protect everyone. There are lots of people who are living in a world of misguided fear right now because of the way information is being disseminated and given to the masses.
Here is the cold hard truth from this Kansas mutt's eyes- there are bad people in every race, every religion, in every profession, in every demographic we use to group and measure people. That is the cold hard reality of life. However, on the flip side there are also a LOT of really great, wonderful people full of hope, love, kindness, caring, joy, support and comfort. At some point we have to chose to focus on those people- the majority of people. We have to stop blaming the small portions of people who make bad decisions, who chose hate and violence. Each of those individuals never represent ALL of anything.
Change the rhetoric- change the words! Words have a power we underestimate, and right now we are letting those words turn us against each other. The words that are doctored for sensationalized headlines and 40 character tweets are turning us into a people who no longer question and challenge the information that is put before us. Instead of demonizing the people who are trying to bring focus, attention, and change the conversation- shouldn't we be asking why they feel they need to in the first place. Maybe we should stop and ask ourselves- are we missing something? I think we just might be.
But what do I know, I am just a Kansas Mutt.