“Two households, both alike in dignity humanity
In fair Verona the USA, where we lay our scene
From ancient grudge wounds of oppression break to new mutiny
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean…”
William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, edited excerpt from prologue
15 years ago, a family member of mine received a voice mail that sent a shock wave of fear through her body. “There’s been an incident involving your son and a gun, please give us a call at your earliest convenience.”
With a pounding heart and shaky hands, she dialed the school office. Relief washed over her as she learned that a neighbor spotted her son and a friend driving around shooting cap guns out of the car window.
His punishment, an in-school suspension, seemed too harsh. They were just playing. It wasn’t even on school grounds. Come on! Lighten up, and also, you might want to work on your voice mail skills.
He survived the in-school suspension and now has a story to laugh at and share with his grandchildren; “The time my mom almost had a heart attack because of a poorly worded voice mail.”
In 2014, another Midwest boy, 12 years old, was playing in the park with a toy gun. Instead of the school being called, the police were called. Instead of his family being jolted by a false alarm, their worst fears were realized, instead of an in-school suspension, Tamir Rice was shot and killed by police within 2 seconds of their arrival on the scene.
The white household gained a story, while the black household lost a child.
When my (white) husband was in middle school, he heard about marijuana, but wasn’t exactly sure what it was. He knew it came in bags (dime-bags, nickel-bags, something like that), that people smoked it, and that people sold it, and that people who could get it were cool.
When he heard that a friend wanted some pot, my husband, the budding entrepreneur, decided it was his golden opportunity to acquire two things he lacked; cash and street cred.
He found a couple of cigarettes, unrolled them, and put the loose tobacco in a baggy thinking,”that’s probably what pot looks like” and presented the “weed” to his friend. Obviously he didn’t earn any cash and he certainly did not earn “street cred.”
My husband’s consequence? A little embarrassment at the time. More embarrassment years later when his wife blogs about it. Which in my estimation, is about right.
Eric Garner, a black man, a husband and father, was suspected of selling cigarettes made from loose tobacco. He did not resist arrest nor was he carrying a weapon.
Eric Garner’s consequence? A police officer choked him to death using an illegal maneuver.
The (white) police officer’s consequence? No trial, no charges.
White American’s are taking to social media with their similar stories of getting off the hook for every type of crime using the hashtag #CrimingWhileWhite, and black Americans are sharing their stories with the hashtag #AliveWhileBlack of getting treated like criminals for… well… living. If you think the stories I shared above are unique, read about multitudes more by looking up these hashtags on Twitter or Facebook.
A new mutiny is erupting from an ancient wound. This “two households” thing isn’t working for half of America. It’s time to live up to our country’s great slogan, “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for ALL.”
It’s time for White American’s to wake up from the “American Dream” long enough to see that for some, it’s a nightmare.