Can we do better?

Tonight, President Obama said “we can do better” as he talked about the two recent shootings of black men by police officers. As he said this, I thought “Can we do better?”  My daughter said to me “Why does everyone say we need to do better? It’s too much pressure and when people tell us to do better, we do worse.” Granted she was in the midst of an anxious tizzy, but I can relate to what she’s saying. As a person who tries super hard and takes responsibility for things even when I shouldn’t, I find it hard when people say things like “We can do better.”

And I can imagine this may be how many police officers feel hearing these words. Most police officers, my cousin included, are going in to work day in and day out, protecting us. As I listened to Harry Houck speak on CNN, I was frustrated by his words and his lack of willingness to admit there is any racial injustice in America. And yet, as I look back on it, I think he’s feeling what my daughter was feeling. I can imagine he is thinking Why are you telling me I can do better? I – and my colleagues work so hard to protect you and you are saying we need to do better. And I think this feeling that he and other cops are already working so hard is clouding his judgement.

I think we need to admit that there are racial systemic injustices. A search of “racial disparities” in google scholar reveals over 22,000 articles so it’s hard to argue that they don’t exist. Granted, these disparities are so complicated and hard to disentangle from other socioeconomic factors, but I don’t know how people can try to argue that race doesn’t matter.

I think that we need to admit we are human and all have personal biases. We are hard wired to categorize things so that we can make quick decisions and even when we try not to, we all have personal biases, sometimes racial. As my daughter and I discussed this tonight, we both admitted that when we walk in a city, we are scared when we see a man walk by and that our heart beats even more quickly when it is a black man walking by. And we both HATE this. It makes us mad at ourselves and so sad. And this makes both of us mad at ourselves and so sad. I have black friends who I love. My kids are the minority race in their school and I love all of their classmates and families. I’ve been the minority in previous jobs. And I know I still have racial biases.

So tonight, I grieve with the families who have lost love ones. I grieve for the fact that there is still so much work for us to do.

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