I am so tired of everything being black and white. The only time something is black or white is in a paint box or crayons. OK, maybe paper. And piano keys. And penguins. But everything else, EVERYTHING else, is gray. Multiple shades of gray, on a spectrum between off-white and charcoal. And I feel that I need to say here that I find black to be a beautiful color, too. I am not using color to illustrate good vs. bad. I am using it to describe absolutes, and there really aren't very many.
In my last post I mentioned another shooting - this one in Lancaster, PA. According to the reports I have heard, police received a call from a woman that her brother was trying to break into her home and was threatening her mother. When police arrived Ricardo Munoz ran at them, wielding a knife over his head. He was then shot by one of the officers. The coroner has ruled his death a homicide.
I don't know any more than that. I don't know the name of the officer. I don't know if there is more to the story. I do know that investigations continue, and that protests have erupted in Lancaster.
I am grieving for Mr. Munoz's family. To lose a loved one in such a violent way - well, too many black and brown families know that pain. Too many black and brown bodies have been violated at the hands of police.
I do believe that we need police reform. BUT, before anyone howls that I am an anarchist, and that our police officers work really damn hard - I agree with you, too.
I grieve for the officer that did the shooting. There may be a few police officers who got into their line of work because they are aggressive racists (and I cannot imagine any scenario where it is smart to put one's knee on the neck of another). But I think most police officers are good people who are trying to do a good job with impossible odds. I think most police officers chose police work because they truly want to make positive differences in their communities.
And so I grieve with and for this officer (I'm going to call him Officer X.). I imagine him getting up in the morning, showering, shaving and dressing. Maybe humming a hymn, if he would be going to church if he didn't have to work. Kissing his wife (if he has one) goodbye, telling the kids (if he has any) to mind their mother, and telling them all he'd see them tonight. I see his family going on with their day.
I see him drinking his coffee when he got to the station. Joking with fellow police officers about whatever they joke about. Getting his assignment for the day. And when the call came in, I see him driving in his car, not really worried that much, but on alert, because with police work one never really knows. I see him taking a deep breath and getting out of the car.
And in the blink of an eye his life changed forever. Police officers are trained to take lives, if necessary, but it is my understanding that most never even pull their guns. I can't imagine that this officer is not profoundly shaken by what happened. I can't imagine him going home and telling his family, when they asked how his day was, "I killed someone. Would you pass the salt?" I can't imagine him sleeping well that night.
Because it isn't black and white. Mr. Munoz was in crisis of some kind. Now the officer is.
It isn't that I think we need to defund police. I think we need to reallocate funds. Because Officer X shouldn't have been put in that situation in the first place. Why is there not more funding for mental health care? Why wasn't someone who is trained to deescalate crises along? Why do we ask SO much of our police officers, and then rage when they react in a split second in a way that might not have been necessary? Have we put them in these positions so we can scapegoat them when something goes wrong? How is scapegoating ever healthy? How can we do that to people we claim to care so much about?
Why was Mr. Munoz acting aggressively? Was he in a mental health crisis? Had he become overwhelmed with everything? Was he angry? Has the system taught him that angry is a manly way to be? I have no idea. I don't know enough about what happened. But we are putting people in untenable situations, and then we are aghast when the outcome is bloody.
It isn't black or white. It isn't defund the police or have law and order.
One of the greatest joys of my life was reading Harry Potter to my kids. Jeff was a senior in high school when the last book came out, and he still let me read it aloud to him. The Harry Potter books are about good vs. evil. Harry is good; Voldemort is evil. But that is where the strict dichotomy ends. Dumbledore? Good - except he wasn't always there for Harry. Snape was bad - except that he was really looking out for Harry's best interest. Madeye Moody? Good, until he wasn't. Remus - good, except he was a werewolf. Sirius Black - bad since he was in Azkaban, but he loved Harry and provided wisdom and support Harry couldn't get elsewhere.
All shades of gray.
Even in the Bible there isn't much black or white. Jesus is good; Satan is bad. Abraham - the father of many nations who raped Hagar and pretended Sarah, his wife, was his sister so Pharoah wouldn't kill him. Presumably that put Sarah in a compromising position with Pharoah. Another Pharoah ordered that all male Hebrew children be thrown into the Nile and drowned, but then looked the other way when his daughter pulled one of those same babies out of the water and adopted him as her own. Moses - chosen by God to lead the Hebrew people out of bondage, but then not allowed into the promised land because he forgot that he wasn't God.
The list goes on and on. Even the Bible isn't black and white.
If God and Jesus wanted us to behave exactly, they'd have told us exactly how to behave. Actually, I guess, God did, but then Jesus came and said, "Well, not exactly. Just love each other." Of course I am paraphrasing rather badly.
But we don't get a list of things to do and things not to do. It isn't easy. It isn't supposed to be easy.
At the end of the day, I want to limp like Jacob (figuratively, though if I am to literally limp I'll have to do it), who wrestled with God and was never the same. I want to wrestle with God, and I don't think God minds that at all.
From Black to White Color Palette. https://www.color-hex.com/palettes/37706.png. Online 9/16/2020