From affirmative action to police militarization, 14 thoughts on race

Honestly, when I first started to write my last post about Rachel Dolezal, the civil rights activist who allegedly faked being black, I wanted to start with the sentence: If there’s one topic I am sick of, it’s race.

I’ve been analyzing the subject in my head as a mixed race person since my earliest memories of my grandfather talking about the niggers ruining Boston. I’ve written about it — not just in the linked articles, but all my life. I’ve had to parent around it, make decisions around the affirmative action side of it, acknowledge its minor complications in my even more mixed-race relationships.

Weirder still, as much as race has affected my life, it actually has very little to do with my day to day — part of which, admittedly, is due to living in the great state of Maine.

Pool party confrontation thrusts Texas town into spotlight on police and race relations

Derrick Golden of the New Covenant Fellowship Church in McKinney, Texas, leads a protest outside Joyce Kelley Comstock Elementary on Monday, June 8, 2015, before marching to the Craig Ranch pool where McKinney Police Cpl. Eric Casebolt was seen on video pinning a 14-year-old African-American girl to the ground and pointing his gun at other teenagers. (Tom Fox/Dallas Morning News/TNS)

I decided that, if I wrote about race again, I was going to list a bunch of things I think, but have not said, in print. Or if I have written about these things previously, like matters of policy, I have not said them in this context or format. They are the kind of things I really do think but fear saying in a public forum because of the potential backlash.

After the Dolezal post, I came to terms with the silliness of this concern because no matter what someone says about race in our 24/7, app-happy, Twitter-fed world, there’s backlash. So here’s the list.

Again, I reiterate, this list is just what I think after my personal experiences. I am not trying to tell anyone else what to think.  Every single person who reads this list is free to think what he or she thinks. Readers thoughts may be somewhat similar or entirely different or a little of both or a whole lot of neither. That is the wonder that is America!

  • Just like I don’t think most Mainers are racist, I don’t think most Americans are either.
  • I think affirmative action is the right idea, but bad policy. I could do an entire separate blog post on the topic that would include Rachel Dolezal’s story, my personal experience, and historical context regarding President Abraham Lincoln’s concerns prior to emancipating slaves.
  • I think we need to turn down the volume on the rhetoric and turn up the volume on demanding policy and practice change in areas concerning equal access to educational and economic opportunities, equal treatment in criminal justice and policing, and equal access to the political arena.
  • I think people should know even Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was concerned about poor white populations whose circumstances mirror those of black populations.
  • I think most people want to get along.
  • I think most people mean well.
  • I think most police officers want to serve their communities to the best of their training and ability, a thought that is not meant to minimize the hot mess that is policing in black neighborhoods in places all over our country.
  • I think federal, state and local governments should worry less about militarizing our police force and worry more about adequate training and improved practices and policies so their officers can serve their communities to the best of their abilities.
  • I think children see race as a “thing” because we all teach them to because of the baggage we all keep getting born into. If we didn’t, I think children would see race much the same as eye color or hair color. Just a matter of finding the right crayon.
  • I think it’s time to stay focused on lightening that baggage through good policies and practice, especially regarding police practices and black men.
  • I think owning, raping and whipping people was wrong, but under-employing people and/or underpaying them, so they can’t afford basic food and shelter isn’t so hot either.
  • I think the World War II acronym SNAFU — Situation Normal: All F’ed Up — is the perfect way to describe race in America today.
  • I think more people should read “Strength to Love,” a collection of sermons by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In the very first sermon he calls on people to have a tough mind and a tender heart. He warns of the dangers of too much soft-mindedness or too much hardheartedness.
  • I think as a society we are doing better on the tenderheartedness, but not so much on the tough-mindedness. And tough-mindedness is what it’s going to take to insist our leadership institute policies that address the changes that need to be made so somebody’s grand-babies are born with less baggage.

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

Trish is a writer who lives in Augusta. She has worked professionally in education and social services.