The day after five Dallas police officers were killed Chelsie Dort, a popular blogger, felt compelled to head to her blog and share her thoughts. What resulted was a powerfully moving article titled “When Suddenly No Lives Matter.”
If you haven’t read it, I urge you to please click the link and take the time. It’s well worth it. What makes the piece so powerful is the perspective from which it is written. Chelsie is white. Her husband is black. They have two children, one from Chelsie’s previous marriage (he is white), and one they had together. Anyone hoping for Martin Luther King’s dream of a color-blind society should be celebrating this beautiful blended family.
But in this world of divisions, violence, hate and anger, it is a very challenging world for a family like Chelsie’s.
It has been heart-wrenching for me to watch the events of the last few weeks unfold. Like Chelsie, I have felt the agony of both sides, and I ache that there are sides to take at all. I wish you could see from my vantage point what this is doing to us as a people and as a country. We are self-segregating ourselves, falling into the divisions others are creating for us. But in reality, we agree much more than we don’t. We all want the same things. We all want our families to be safe, healthy and prosperous; and we all want our husbands to come home at night.
We are all so angry, so sure that our cause is right and that those who don’t agree are our enemy, that we’re not taking the time to listen to each other or really see what’s going on. Yes, there are police officers who make bad decisions. There are even some bad police officers, but most are just people like the rest of us, with families they want to get home to.
Yes, there are people who are using Black Lives Matter to take advantage of the suffering of others in an effort to promote an agenda and deepen the already broadening divisions in our country. But most of the people involved in the movement are just families like us who feel like they finally have a voice.
At the end of the day, they all just want the same thing—to make it home safe.
For just a minute, let’s consider what it’s like to be in each other’s shoes; because we are kidding ourselves if we think the families of Black Lives Matter don’t have a case.
I remember the first time I noticed it. My husband had a good friend, Ron, who served in the military with him. He was black. My husband is white. We were discussing this very issue one day when Ron said, “You just don’t understand.”
“What don’t we understand?” my husband asked. Just then we pulled into a convenience store. Ron looked at my husband and I as we walked in the door.
“Just watch,” he said.
We all walked into the store at the same time but the moment we walked in the clerk’s eyes were on our friend. He paid no attention to us but he was obviously watching, even following behind our friend at one point, until he left the store. It was eye-opening.
Chelsie had her eyes opened in a much more painful way when her husband was slammed to the ground by several police officers, handcuffed and taken to jail for an expired license plate. They impounded their car and it cost Chelsie and her husband $1,400 to get it out.
What would have probably gone as a warning for Chelsie turned into tragic lesson in understanding the life her husband lives, and what her children would most probably face. How does a mother deal with that?
“Doesn’t it bother you,” Chelsie asked her husband.
“I used to be so mad about it,” he answered. “Until I looked into the police officer’s eyes one day and realized he was afraid of me.”
I have a friend who is a police officer who said the same thing. He said law enforcement often uses minor traffic violations to pull people over if they suspect possible criminal activity. For a police officer no traffic stop is ever routine. Everything is life or death. If the driver is a black man the police officer instantly stiffens, wondering if I will make it home that night—not because he’s racist but because he’s scared. Remember, he is in adrenalin-pumping situations with black criminals on an-ongoing basis, so this is definitely going to affect his judgement.
It’s not fair either way. A police officer should not walk up to a car and be afraid; and the person in the car should not have to be afraid. But these are the tragic circumstances in which we find ourselves.
The more we push these divisions the more afraid both parties will be and that will only lead to more unnecessary tension and violence on both sides until no lives matter anymore.
Chelsie’s husband says when he is stopped by the police for any reason he immediately puts his hands up, makes no sudden moves and follows all orders–no matter how unfair they seem.
“Is it humiliating? Degrading? Yes,” he says. “But I am a large black man. He is scared of me. I am scared of him; and I just want us both to make it home safe to our families.”
Being hateful and angry at each other won’t solve anything. If we are serious about wanting things to change then we need to really listen to each other and stop allowing those who would divide us win. We each need to give a little more, trust a little more, and love a little more.
Chelsie’s oldest son is often asked why his brother is black when he is white.
“Because he’s my brother,” he says.
If only we could all have that same pure heart, that same childlike innocence and realize we are all brothers.
What happens when no lives matter? We forget who we are, why we are, and the simple fact that we all just want to make it home safe.