“I don’t mind gay people, as long as they act straight in public.”

As a kid I remember friends proudly announcing their open-mindedness with this line. We were living in a homophobic state at a homophobic time, and any statement not condeming gays to Hell broke strongly left of norm.  

Decades later, Americans’ opinions about gay marriage is one of those in which the “Support” and “Oppose” lines on the graph look like a first step in how to tie your shoes.

Gay people didn’t get there by acting straight in public in order to honor the timeline of intolerant folks.

“He shouldn’t hit his wife, but she should just leave him.”

Although we are all created equal, our lives are anything but equal. A victim might depend on her abuser financially, be entangled to an abuser through property and children and history and love, meaning many roadblocks to setting out on her own. 

Born equal or not, she can’t just run off and stake her own claim without a society which understands her need to do so.

“I support the protesters, except when they are violent or looting.”

I’ve seen locally-owned stores with their windows smashed in, and merchandise removed. Spray paint everywhere. Destruction. Protestors smashing police cars, setting fire to police precincts, media buildings. Protesters hurting other protestors. Unintended injuries and even deaths. 

Do I support the violence and looting? I’m not downtown climbing through broken windows hauling out Nike’s and fancy clothes myself.  I don’t like to see anyone get hurt. I am an empath, and it bothers me in crazy disproportionate amounts when I know innocent people are suffering. I am a vegetarian and I can’t even bring myself to kill the slugs currently decimating my tomato plants. I just “relocate” them to the other side of the driveway.

If the protesters get violent, and the police spray tear gas, and tear gas seeps into the home of an asthmatic child nearby, and that kiddo has a hard time breathing because of it… That is the sort of truly abhorrent consequence that makes me queasy.  

But is the suffering of an asthmatic child the protesters’ fault, or that of the police? “The technology for deploying tear gas is advancing far more quickly than scientists’ understanding of the impacts, Jordt said. “While use of these [compounds] is escalating, there is a vacuum of research to back up the safety of high-level use.” 

Maybe it’s because I am an educator, but I am crammed full of all the feels. In teacher training, we are told that if a student is misbehaving, it is because his or her needs are not being met.  We don’t approach behavior issues in the way teachers might have decades ago–no more rapping knuckles or dunce caps. 

Instead, teachers begin researching, digging into the “why” behind the student’s behavior. Looking, listening, taking stock of everything the kiddo does with the goal of understanding.  Once we understand the “why” of the behavior, we can begin working to fill those unmet needs. Thinking of behavior as the result of unmet needs takes away frustration, takes away the me-versus-them, and sets me alongside the student toward success.

Of course, protestors are not children and shouldn’t be treated as such.  But any society can be judged on how it meets the needs of its most vulnerable citizens, and right now African-Americans across the country are making it clear that their needs–the need to be treated respectfully by law enforcement and be able to rely on police services like any other citizen of this country, constitutionally-guaranteed needs–are not being met.

In other words, as a country, our ideals of equality for all are not being met.

Our constitutional ideals of justice are not being met.

Our constitutional ideals of liberty are not being met.

The question of whether or not to support the violence and looting is beside the point.  

The point is that police have been brutally beating and killing black people for generations, and nothing is going to change if we allow the people in power to make changes on their own timeline.  If innocent people suffer or die in the process, that is a tragedy.  But innocent people die every day. 

The point is, 240-odd years ago we began this whole democratic government by proclaiming “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” and that was a very big deal.  Therefore, when citizens of this country make it known they’re not being treated as equals, we need to bring the whole law enforcement system to a halt. It needs an overhaul with the emphasis on making sure all our citizens receive the police protection they deserve.  

Gay people didn’t gain rights by acting the way straight people would have preferred they act in public.

Abused women don’t find freedom by simply running out the front door and staking a claim for themselves elsewhere.

African-Americans will never reach equality by acquiescing to inhumane treatment.

Martin Luther King advocated non-violence, but called riots “the language of the unheard.”

Stop what you are doing and listen. 

Published by akinerk

Originally from New Hampshire, I have lived on the Key Peninsula for the past eight years with my family. I am a teacher and also write articles for the KP News.

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