Monday, November 19, 2018

Do You Hear What I Hear

Good Monday morning.

The kids are officially on Thanksgiving Break, & the weather this morning is a perfect way to commence the break. The patter of cold rain accompanies me as I type this morning. 

The kids & I had a busy week last week. Trey was out of town last Tuesday, Wednesday, & Thursday nights; I am still attempting to recover my sleep. Between two kids & a dog in my bed Tuesday, Wednesday, & Thursday nights & the weight of the knowledge that I was the only adult in the house & was totally responsible for checking Reagan's number during the night, waking us all, dressing us all, & scuttling us all out the door in time to join the morning traffic, I was & remain just a little bit tired.

A few noteworthy things happened last week. First, it snowed. In November. In Louisiana.

It was just a light dusting, but still, unexpected & exciting for us.

Last week Reagan performed in her school's yearly production known as Grandparents' Day. She, (along with her fellow second graders) was one of those aliens in Toy Story who fears THE CLAW.

On Saturday the kids & I met my parents & my sister's family at a local tree farm to pick out Nana's Christmas trees. I say trees because the plan this year is to put up two small-ish trees at my parents' house, one tree on either side of the fireplace. This is to avoid the annual fight over the tree that seemed perfect on the tree lot but proves far too large when brought in the house. The trees won't be delivered for another few weeks so as to give them a fighting chance to live until Christmas, but once they are up & decorated I will of course share pictures.

My brother-in-law took some photos of the kids at the Christmas tree farm we visited Saturday, but I've not yet loaded them on my computer. Maybe in a few weeks when my Christmas Break commences I'll get my act together, transfer those photos, & share them with you fine people. We shall see.

I did snap these before & after we ate our Sunday lunch yesterday:

I am *technically* not yet on Thanksgiving Break. For reasons I cannot fathom, the community college that employs me does not take a full week for Thanksgiving Break. Our break begins Wednesday at noon, & so that means the classes I teach on Tuesdays are slated to meet tomorrow, but guess what? I have kids. Some of my students have kids. All of our kids are out of school this entire week. I made an executive decision to cancel tomorrow's classes. I thought it a wise decision given the staggeringly high odds few of my students would show up for class on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. 

We have grand plans to spend the week with family eating & talking & being merry. Actually, Henry has to have cavities filled this afternoon, & then the merriment will officially commence. Tomorrow's big event will be a trip to see the new Grinch movie with some of their cousins. In between sleeping & eating & movie-going the kids & I will make our way through the boxes & bags of Christmas decor Trey hauled down from the attic last night. The kids looted some of the Christmas boxes last night. I found Henry like this when I went to check on him in bed late last night:

I want to take a few minutes & ask you to pray for two families for whom the holiday season will be a somber time this year, & likely for many years to come. You may recall the name Botham Jean. Botham was shot & killed by a Dallas cop in September of this year. He was shot by a Dallas cop (now former Dallas cop) who claims she thought she'd entered her own apartment & believed Botham was an intruder. 

More recently you may've heard the name Jemel Roberson. Jemel was working extra shifts as a security guard to help pay for his son's Christmas. On November 11, some unruly (likely drunk) patrons in the bar that employed Jemel began firing weapons. Jemel returned fire, doing his job & likely preventing further injuries & loss of life. Jemel was then shot dead by a cop responding to the melee in the bar. 

It's possible you were not aware of one or both of these incidents. Neither incident dominated the news for more than a split-second, & no one rioted or burned businesses in the aftermath of the death of Botham Jean or the death of Jemel Roberson. 

I think about these young men often. I think about their families facing the holidays without them. 

Too many of us believe one of two lies: That everything is about race (it's not), or that nothing is about race (this is also untrue).

When I think about Botham Jean & Jemel Roberson, I cannot dismiss the fear expressed by many black women, or anyone raising a black son, when they claim they worry for their sons. "Just follow the law." "Don't get yourself in trouble, & there's no reason to worry." This is obviously good advice, but it didn't prevent Botham from being shot in his own apartment; it didn't prevent Jemel, an armed security guard in uniform, from being shot while doing his job.

My thoughts often drift to these two young men, both now lost to us, their young lives cut short through no fault of their own. Unless there are details of their shootings to which I am not privy, I don't know what either of these young men could have done differently. I don't know if either of them would be alive had they been born white. I don't know that. It's impossible to know for sure.

I use both of these shootings as an impetus to say that it's vitally important to listen to others. It is vitally important to treat individuals as individuals. It is vitally important to stop simplifying a complicated world via categories that are rarely useful & often harmful. If you respond the same way to every police shooting, you're not doing it right; you're not listening to voices beyond those that parrot beliefs you already hold to be true.

I am not "on the side of the cops." I am not "on the side of black men." There should not be sides at all. I am on the side of seeking the truth of every situation, beginning with the foundational understanding that every situation is unique, just as every individual is unique.

I love the Hemingway quote above; I love it so much it makes an appearance in Dear Miss Moreau.

When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen. 

It's seemingly impossible to have an honest, productive conversation in this nation about anything involving race relations. The simple truth is one not many people care to admit: not everything is about race, but it's equally naive to insist nothing is. Don't dismiss the fear of women who are raising & who love young black men. Their fears for the safety of these boys they love are not completely unfounded. It is not always enough to do the right thing; Botham Jean was shot in his own home. Jemel was doing the job he was paid to do; he responded exactly as he should have, & he likely saved lives before his own was cut short.

In last week's blog I shared & discussed an article on the importance of family. You can click here to read that if you're so inclined. Jemel Roberson leaves a son who is now fatherless. There is an epidemic in this country of young men, particularly young black men, growing up without a father. The consequences of fatherlessness are dire both at the micro level as well as on a societal level. We cannot always prevent fatherlessness. Some boys lose their fathers to alcohol. Some boys lose their fathers to prison. Some boys lose their fathers to selfishness. Jemel's son lost his father to death, a senseless death that I just do not understand.

I have no knowledge of the cop who shot Jemel. I don't know what statements, if any, this individual has made. I know the cop who shot Botham Jean is no longer with the Dallas police force. I am unsure if charges have been filed against her. I haven't continued to follow the details of the case because it mentally weighs on me in a way that is unhealthy.

I suppose I think about & I highlight the deaths of these two men to try & demonstrate that the conversation about police & black males that is often directed by the national media is rarely, if ever, accurate or productive. This is a tough issue. I simply encourage you, with the deaths of these two men in mind, to listen thoughtfully & prayerfully to others, about this & really any issue.

Pray for the families of Botham Jean & Jemel Roberson today & this week as Thanksgiving comes & goes & these men are noticeably absent. Pray for all who will face an empty seat at the table this year.    

I am excited about the week ahead with family. I apologize for this less-than-peppy Monday morning message. If I don't write about what's on my mind there's really no point to writing.

I hope you always try to honestly consider the plight of others. This is a constant struggle for me. I pray you have a wonderful week & a very Happy Thanksgiving.  


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