I just want to tell you about myself.
First of all, you should know that I’m usually a pretty meticulous writer. But today I’m tired. I have a very sick kid, who will be okay but isn't just yet, and I offer that to you as context for where I am mentally these days.
I just want to let you all know who I am, and why I’m here.
I’m a white woman from a conservative family with a lot of law enforcement officers. My uncle was one, my brother and cousin signed up, I married one. My husband is still an active duty police officer in our community. We’ve been together since we were kids, nineteen and twenty one. Growing up, my husband’s father was unwell and dangerous - one day he chased my husband and his mom out of the house with a loaded gun. The police came and took his dad away, and it made my husband feel safe. As he put it, that night was the first night in his whole life he felt like he really slept. He was sixteen. This positive experience with police was formative for him - we were young enough (and naive enough, and ignorant enough, and indoctrinated enough) when we got married and went down this path that we were pretty blind to the dysfunction of the culture. We didn’t ask enough questions, didn’t see what we were getting drawn into. I’ll talk more about that, but it’s a post all on its own.
We believed it was a good thing to do, and we sacrificed and suffered a lot to do it. We tried to do it well. We live openly in the community where my husband works, the same one he grew up in. I use my own name when I write. Our children are in public school. We have made these choices - choices police families don’t often make - because we believe in the need to hold ourselves accountable. My husband’s reputation in the community is tied into our personal safety and freedom. We have embraced this and don’t shy from it.
Our efforts have been imperfect, wrong headed, short sighted and at times too far behind the curve to be acceptable. It has taken time and the ability to learn from the hard work of Black writers and thinkers to recognize the systemic racism that permeates all of our systems, but none with more devastating brutality than our criminal justice system. It’s hard to accept that you’ve participated in and sustained your family on something that can and does bring such harm - especially when you wanted to do good. But if you want to actually do that good, if you want what you suffered to mean something - it’s critical to accept it. It’s critical to embrace positive change. It's critical to accept the harm done, to accept the responsibility to repair it.
I’m here because I accept it. We accept it.
I am here because I need to hold myself accountable.
I need to hold my husband accountable.
I need to hold our police department accountable.
I had always interrogated my husband about the casual racism I observed from some of his colleagues, when I felt I saw it start to take root in him at times, when something sat wrong in my gut. He would talk about a stop or arrest, I always had to know - what color were they? I kept my own tally of who he was mad at, who he had sympathy for - I made him read articles about implicit bias, showed him the studies. He learned, he wanted to learn, we are both still learning all the time. I stopped being willing to associate with people who I knew were racist and generally callous to the gravity of their chosen profession.
But I don’t know why I ever thought that was enough.
When Philando Castile was murdered, I stopped being willing to keep discussions about race and policing an in-house matter. I felt that I knew too much, had observed too much, to be silent and live with my own soul. I began writing on Facebook, mostly, if only to let the people who knew us, people in our own community, know that I was thinking about these things, that our lives had been dedicated to creating safety - and that creating safety for our Black community is more important to us than any particular system. Creating safety is more important than defending policing. Creating safety requires the dismantling of white supremacy at every level and in every division of our local government. And it is there. It is in our board meetings, in our municipal workforce, in our schools, in our police departments, it is in City Hall and it is in the city streets.
I’m here because I’ve had a window into this reality, with increasing levels of awareness about how to understand what I was witnessing, since I was twenty-one years old. I have watched our systems flounder and fail to deliver for our Black community, our folks living in poverty, our children with special needs. I have seen it because we live here, and our children go to school here, and our families and friends and their families are from here - and there is power in our generational, observational knowledge. You can not convince me that an improved park sitting miles away from where our least resourced children, our Black children, our criminalized and marginalized children, is an adequate improvement to my community. You can’t tell me that a better school system that improves its numbers, in part, by driving out our poorest families is a benefit to my community when my children are watching their friends leave, when money and the struggle to get by is openly talked about on our playgrounds, so deep the fears, so frequent the notices that the home they’ve rented for a decade and cherished is being sold to turn a massive profit, flipped for the more affluent to come and coo over our community. I’m here because I will never be able to believe this hype.
I’m here because I’ve closely observed institutional power in my community for fourteen years. I have observed that it is dominated by white people, with Black folks routinely tokenized, demonized and dismissed from positions of access. Power moves in predictable motions here, and so do the efforts to protect it. I have been watching this, with a rotating cast of characters, for the entirety of my adult life.
I am here to share what I know.
I am here to disrupt and dismantle white supremacy. I am here to promote economic justice. I am here to get behind Black leadership and create an equitable community.
And I’m very, very grateful to be counted among you in this.