I’m a young, white, Catholic, politically conservative woman. I am active in the Tea Party. I am active in our community. I am 100 percent against police violence and brutality. I’m against racial discrimination and offensive and ill-informed stereotypes. Trust me, I’ve seen my share of hate and ignorance for embracing the Tea Party label.
When Michael Brown was initially killed and unrest broke out in Ferguson, Missouri, I found friends posting a blog on XOJane titled “I Don’t Know How to Talk to White People About Ferguson,” on social media. I read it several times as I tried to process the author’s problem as she posed it.
“How do I talk to white people about this!? How can I possibly explain the rage, fear, sadness, and every other emotion I don’t have a name for yet as I watch these events unfold?”
My answer is simply that you discuss it honestly and openly and without the preconceived idea that I can’t understand. I don’t know a person, regardless of race, who hasn’t felt the emotions named above. I don’t know a person watching the events in Ferguson unfold who doesn’t want the truth to come out or for the community to find peace.
Right now, as the community around Ferguson is on high alert bracing for the grand jury’s decision on charging the officer involved, my Facebook timeline is full of strong opinions on what should happen. There are national stories discussing the fear of continuing civil unrest and the threat of violence should the jury not move towards an indictment.
It seems to me that we should take this window of time to talk to one another openly and honestly about not just this case but about the racial difference that still exist. The differences that become more apparent in times of crisis such as this but exist on a day-to-day basis between times of crisis.
While I respect our nations legal system I believe with all my heart that George Zimmerman should be spending his life in jail for the senseless and tragic death of Trayvon Martin. That could have been my little brother in the hoodie I bought him for Christmas years ago walking home that night. He’s not black but he’s young, covered in tattoos and full of attitude. I dare not think of how he would have responded to Zimmerman following him along those dark streets just hours from where we grew up.
Several months ago a young toddler was badly injured when police SWAT teams threw a flash grenade into the playpen he was sleeping in. You’ll note I said toddler, not white toddler. The reason – race is irrelevant. They police were wrong! A child was injured. I was then and still remain angry. I am hurt for his family. I am hurt for what lies ahead in his recovery.
I am no more or less angry for this child or his family because of the color of his skin. I can’t imagine that a black mother would hear about this case and feel any different than I do right now.
Several years ago it was determined that law enforcement officers working for Sheriff Joe Arpio in Phoenix mishandled dozens of sexual assault cases. I read the reports and was disappointed and outraged. The women were disproportionately Hispanic and it was theorized that the distrust of law enforcement played into the ability of officers to shelve the cases and botch investigations.
The only way we can address these problems is to see them through the perspective we are given and hope that while our starting point may be different we come to the same conclusions. Justice, fairness and compassion are color blind.
Most law enforcement officers are honest and caring people. Those who seek out these jobs typically do so because they want to uphold the law not make a mockery of it. That said, the increased use of force within some local law enforcement agencies is worth a discussion nationally. That conversation needs to occur regardless of racial lines.
How do you start a dialogue with a white person on racial issues? By coming at it openly and honestly, putting aside the idea that we/”they” can’t understand.
My life experiences are different than those of a black woman but I have no doubt we can learn from one another. Race can be among the starting points that drive our experiences but it is not the whole of who we are. Let’s come to some solutions with an honest discussion, not just jump to conclusions and skip the hard part.
Apryl Marie Fogel is a new Alabama resident who works as a conservative political activist.
This column originally appeared on AL.com.