I think I was probably in middle school the first time I saw footage of 1960s civil rights protestors being attacked by dogs and fire hoses. I remember feeling scared and confused and sickened by the newsreels. Weren't the police supposed to be the good guys? That's what I'd learned from Mister Rogers.
I never expected to watch similar footage - over the same fight - in my lifetime.
African Americans told us for decades that police abuse had not ceased but no one really believed them until we all started carrying video cameras in our pockets. What we're seeing isn't new, it's just being recorded.
Protests are spreading nationwide and I can't help but feel like I'm reliving what Walter Cronkite brought to my parents each night. Because nothing's changed yet. The system isn't broken - it was built like this.
"Rioting doesn't solve anything!" Tell it to the Boston tea partiers, sister. This country was literally founded by oppressed people rioting. "Revolution" and "revolt" come from the same Latin root.
"We believe in law and order in this Country. We condemn violence against property or persons.We will always stand for the right of Americans to peacefully protest and let their voices be heard," said the Vice President, who theatrically walked out of an NFL game because players kneeled in protest during the national anthem.
Over and over we have watched our citizens killed in a blatant disregard for black lives, while armed white men scream in the faces of police with zero consequence. We are at a tipping point and sadly we have not learned from our own history, so it turns out that rioting is once again necessary.
When I was in college, a classmate had a party at her apartment. She lived there with a cop, but he was out of town, or working night shift, or something. I can't remember exactly. But he wasn't going to be there, so she was throwing a party. Chip and I went. We'd been there an hour or two, were having a good time. Party was in full swing. When in through the door walks the boyfriend, and he was not happy. He was short, dark haired, barrel-chested, whereas she was tall, leggy, blonde. "Come on, let's go," Chip said. I was all, No, let's wait, I'm sure it'll be fine. He said, "There's one thing I'm not messing around with and that's a pissed-off short guy with a gun. Let's go." In 1994, I'm not sure we were using the term "toxic masculinity" yet, but Chip knew it when he saw it.
I empathize for the anger our black citizens feel because of the simmering fury I felt at Brock Turner and Brett Kavanaugh. Rape Culture. Toxic Masculinity. It's a lack of respect for people considered less than you. A lack of human dignity for a person who is not a white male and therefore doesn't really matter. The system isn't broken - it was built like this. While some systemic racism can be rectified by changing laws and policies, what we really need a is a culture change, and that comes though leadership.
Our county is literally dying for compassionate, intelligent leadership. We are cursed by a president who incites violence on social media and is more upset that Twitter marked his false tweet as false than he is by our nation imploding. When white supremacists protest he says, "there are good people on both sides" but when blacks protest, he calls them thugs and threatens to shoot his own citizens.
Our country is breaking. Every citizen has a responsibility to do something. Demand change. Speak out. Do not allow even passive racism to go unchecked. Call it out when you see and hear it. Read. Listen. Ask. Learn. Vote. Elections matter.