A few weeks ago, I had to take a client to one of those Emergi-care places. She'd gotten a ring stuck on her finger and it needed to be cut off (the ring, not the finger). Her doctor couldn't do it, so he sent us there, as he knew they had a tool that could cut the ring. In the waiting room, I met a young father, who was there with his sick toddler and an infant in a carrier. The dad was so gentle and patient with his little boy, which impressed me (I love to watch good daddies) and, as you do in situations like that, we struck up a conversation. The little guy had a stomach bug - the same one his older brother had a few days prior. Dad was hoping the baby wasn't going to get it, too. We chatted for a bit and then they were called up to the intake desk. I heard the girl who was checking them in ask if they'd traveled outside the US lately - to Africa specifically. The dad looked surprised and responded that they hadn't. The intake clerk explained that she had to ask everyone because of the Ebola scare.
Just as the dad and his two little ones were called back to the exam rooms by the nurse, the next patient was called to the intake desk - an older man with an injured wrist. Again, the clerk asked the travel/Ebola questions, Again she said, "We have to ask everyone, because of the Ebola scare."
Then my client was called to the intake desk. I went with her. She was asked a series of questions, which I helped her answer, and then we were told to go back to our seats in the waiting room and the nurse would call us back in a few minutes.
No Ebola questions...
My client went back to her seat but I leaned in and asked the intake clerk why she hadn't asked us if we'd traveled out of the US - to Africa specifically. She looked surprised. I said I heard her asking the young dad and the other gentleman in front of us (both of whom were, I might have forgotten to mention, black) and I heard her say she had to ask everyone. But she didn't ask us (my client, I might have forgotten to mention, is white).
She stammered that she guessed she forgot.
I said, "You know, I have friends from Africa and friends working in Africa right now. It's entirely possible that I could have traveled there recently. That guy in front of us, though? The one with three kids under the age of five? It's not likely he's gone anywhere lately, except to preschool, daycare, and the grocery store."
She was a deer caught in headlights.
"Well... um... have you traveled to Africa lately?"
"No. But that's not the point is it? If you really do have to ask everyone, you really ought to ask everyone." And I walked back to my seat.
This story doesn't have anything to do with what's happening in Ferguson.
But it sort of does.
You might have to bear with me, though, as I try to get it out. I've been so disturbed, like so many, by what's been happening there. It makes my heart hurt on so many levels. I've been observing quietly from my little corner of Pigsknuckle; I've seen the anger and the pain and ugliness. I've seen amazing and beautiful little slivers of humanity and kindness and love. I've seen people judge and jump to conclusions, speaking as if they were there and know exactly what happened. And I've seen so many people take sides.
I can't take sides.
I wasn't there. I don't know what happened. I've read accounts and testimony that simply don't make sense to me, it's true. But I wasn't there. And since the grand jury declined to indict, I've read how legal experts and even the American Bar Association thinks the whole situation was mishandled. But I wasn't there (and I don't trust the media reports. At all). When it comes down to it, I don't know.
But here's what I do know...
I know there are some really amazing folks in law enforcement - people who always try to do the right thing and who do what they do because they truly want to serve and protect. I know this because I know some of those people personally. I'm related to some of them.
I know that there are times when good officers have to do awful things to protect themselves or others.
I know there are some people in law enforcement who are bullies - people who feel they are above the law and who don't tell the truth and do ugly things simply because they can. Not all officers are heroes. They're just not.
I know that you can support law enforcement and still understand and accept that your support is not (or shouldn't be) unconditional.
I know that the law is supposed to work a certain way. I know it is supposed to treat all people equally.
I know it doesn't. It doesn't come anywhere close.
I know that all kids make mistakes. All kids screw up - sometimes in big ways. Most kids are guilty of bad judgment at one time or another. Lots of kids push authority figures to the limit.
I know that unless you're in a kid's shoes and you live his life, you can't truly understand why he acts the way he does. I know that if you try to understand, you both give and receive a gift.
I know that people will lie to protect themselves or to get the result they want. Maybe not all people, maybe not in every situation, but people will and do lie.
I know there is inequality in our society. It is deep and abiding. It is pervading. It is damaging.
I see it every day. I saw it that day in the Emergi-care office.
I know that inequality breeds discontent and anger and frustration that is every bit as deep and abiding.
I know that anger and frustration can reach a tipping point and the result can be violence.
I know that the result can also be change.
I know the two are not mutually exclusive but I believe change without violence is better.
I know that we have the power to come together for change.
I know that we must come together for change.
I know that we must change how we view each other; we must begin to see ourselves - all of us - as simply HUMAN, as connected.
I know we have to do it soon.
I know that enough people have died.