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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Support Police or Acknowledge Racial Bias?

It's not a secret that I believe there is racial bias in our police culture.  But I've realized something. People assume that since I acknowledge the problem, I am against the police. Or that I'm talking-down, disrespecting, or generalizing and therefore not being fair to police officers.

And I've seen my Facebook feed start to have hashtags like #supportthepolice. And I don't see them show up next to hashtags like #blacklivesmatter.

Social Media is so divisive. It reduces us from thinking, feeling, nuanced, beautiful human beings to "sides" and "slogans" that don't truly express how we feel about important issues.

Y'all. It does not have to be either or. I support my police! I love them - I am so thankful for them and I want them to feel respected for the important jobs they do.  Acknowledging there is a problem does not mean that I suddenly am a police-hater who wants them all to be fired. Nor does it mean that I believe every individual police officer is a racist who enters the force with the goal to shoot as many black males as possible.  That is ridiculous. And saying that you support the police does not mean that you believe every black male is a criminal and deserves to be shot. That is equally ridiculous.

Yet this is what I am seeing happening. We are forced to either fall into the camp of "black lives matter" OR "I support our police officers".

You know what I say? "Black lives matter AND I support our police officers."

We need a new hashtag. (you are welcome to laugh at me right now considering I'm still not entirely certain how exactly to use hashtags and still feel strongly they should be called pound signs). Something like:
#issuesarenuancedjustlikepeopleandIsupportmypoliceforceandcallforgreateraccountabilitybecauseblacklivesmatter.
Too long? Thought so.

The best thing we can do right now is to listen to one another.

Are you outraged about all you've been hearing about the shootings of young, unarmed, black males? Good, you should be. Now talk to some police officers. Real ones, in your life. Listen to what they have to say. Find out what it's like to be a police officer. And then learn what kind of training they receive. Be an ally to your police: find out how you can support your local police force to get better. Support them and help them learn how to overcome any racial bias instead of tearing them down.

Are you frustrated that police officers are being given a bad name? Good, you should be. Now go listen to some people of color. Hear their experiences with police. It may not match up with yours. That is okay, they are still valid. Listen to the people who say their voices aren't being heard. Believe them when they say they fear the police won't treat them fairly. And support them: find out how you might be able to bridge the gap between them and the police. Be an ally to the minority population, especially if you have connections in law enforcement.

And pray for each other. Pray for the group you understand the least.  Don't understand why people are angry? Pray for them. Pray for wisdom that you will understand their anger. Don't understand why it is hard for some people to see and acknowledge racial bias? Pray for them and pray for understanding yourself.  Prayer is crazy. I really think when we pray for others, it changes our own hearts and amazing things can happen.

Read the full story behind this hug here:
 http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2014/11/post_495.html#incart_story_package
This sweet 12 year-old spoke to this police officer and shared his fears that he wouldn't be treated fairly by police. The police acknowledged his fears by saying, "I know. I'm sorry. I'm sorry." And the hug happened.

THAT IS WHAT WE NEED. 

Listen, and then Hug, y'all.

Let's stick together on this. You don't have to choose a side. But you can choose to be part of the solution.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Family Turkey Olympics!

One thing I'm thankful for is being part of an active family. I love that the kids & their cousins spent the week running around, playing football, and riding bikes at their grandparents'. I got to go for a couple of runs on the beach and my older kids came along on their bikes. It was heaven.

For many years, the adults in my family have run the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving day. Last year, my (then 8 year-old) nephew joined us. It was freezing but he did great.  But all the other kids (there are 7 cousins all together) wondered why they couldn't come.

So I thought it would be fun to do our own Family Turkey Trot this year. Luckily for me, my sister-in-law is amazing and she took it a step further... so we planned our own Family Turkey Olympics. And it made for quite possibly the best Thanksgiving ever!

And I could not wait to share it with y'all! We made some amazing memories and the kids (and I) can't wait to do it all again next year! Do this with your family.... you'll be so glad you did!

We started with a quick "Opening Ceremonies" (and even played Olympic music on a cell phone) and handed each athlete his/her Olympic jersey and a race bib.

My poor sweet niece was so sick :( She missed out on most of the events, poor baby.
Our first event was The Marshmallow Wreath Toss. Pretty self-explanatory...
I think my sister-in-law missed her calling as a sports photographer. How cool is this picture?!?!


Next up was Junk in the Trunk. It's a Minute to Win It game. You can find instructions here: http://gameshows.about.com/od/minutetowinitgames/g/Minute-To-Win-It-Junk-In-The-Trunk-Game.htm.  Basically, the kids have to dance around (without touching their Kleenex boxes) and get as many ping pong balls to fall out as they could. We used ribbons instead of belts.

Blurry photos because they were working HARD to get those ping pong balls out!


Our next event was Pantyhose Bowling! Place a tennis ball in one foot of a pair of pantyhouse and put them over your head. Then put your hands behind your back and try to knock over a line of water bottles!  Everyone, even the grandparents, participated in this event. It was hilarious:

Grand and Choo Choo showing their skills
After this we were supposed to do a toilet paper mummy wrap. We forgot. It's on the list for next year's events. 

 Our next event was the Pie Eating Contest. We didn't actually want the kids to consume vast amounts of pumpkin pie, so this idea was perfect. My brother-in-law mixed up the filling for one pumpkin pie and divided it (just the filling, no crust) into seven aluminum pie plates.  After they were cooked, he stuck 5 big chocolate chunks in each pie, then covered them with whipped cream.  The kids had to find the chocolate chunks and spit them out onto the little plate next to the. No hands, of course! Then when it was all over, they could eat their chocolate chunks.



Workin' hard!

My daughter has declared she will NOT be participating in this event next year.... note the absence of pie on her face. Apparently, messy games are not her thing.  My boys, however... different story. ;)

We moved outside to do the Cheese Puff Hat event! Kids were in teams of two, put a shower cap on each child's head, cover with shaving cream and have their partners throw as many cheese puffs as they can and see how many stick! Each partner had a chance to cover their cousin's head with cheese puffs!



Action shot - can you spot the cheese puffs in the air??

Is there anything better than covering your cousins in shaving cream and cheese puffs?

Next up was everyone's favorite event: DIZZY BAT. Grown-ups included. Y'all, I laughed so hard I thought I was going to wet my pants!

My brother-in-law thought this was going to be so easy so he took off running at top-speed... and wound up in the bushes!! I don't remember the last time I laughed so hard.

After this was the "Mom Call." Moms stand in the middle of the yard, blindfolded (or eyes closed - moms don't cheat). Dads position the kids around the yard. The moms have to find their own kids by listening for their call. Kids can only yell, "MOM!"  Both of us found our oldest and middles with no problem but had to think hard to be sure of our youngest ones!



Then the "Dad Carry!" Dads had to carry all their kids to one end of the yard and back. This was where having one sick kid worked out for my brother-in-law. He would have had to carry four!

.

The kids really liked this and requested an alternate event: The Uncle Carry. So they switched kids and did it again!

And we wrapped it all up with a Family Fun Run. The grandparents were at the finish line with a ribbon for the kids to run through to finish up!

On Your Mark... Get Set...

GO!


Finish Line!

We had such a fun day. The kids had a BLAST (grown-ups too). Please copy us one day. You'll be so glad you did. :)




Wednesday, November 26, 2014

I lied to my child tonight

I just tucked my sweet youngest child into bed. We rehashed the day and he, with his wonderful four year-old sense of self-confidence, informed me that he is fast and smart. Smarter than me. Smarter than his teachers.  So smart, in fact, that he's going to become a policeman one day.  A policeman that helps people get into bed if they are having trouble getting into bed (no clue where that part came from!)

Then he paused to clarify... "do policemen spray out fires?" he asked. I told him that was firefighters.  "Then what do policemen do?"

And I lied.

I said policemen catch the bad guys. They protect you and keep you safe.  "That's okay" he said, "I'll still be one anyway. And help people."

And thank goodness it was dark because I couldn't stop the tears.

I am not trying to offend any policemen. I know some absolutely amazingly wonderful police families.  I know there are good guys out there. I truly believe it's the system that is broken.  I am heartbroken because this was never the way I imagined I would feel about our police system.

But I also know that in a few short years, I will have to have a different conversation with my black child and his white siblings.  I will have to explain to them why he has to be extra careful and polite around police and white grown-ups in general.  I will have to explain why it is not safe for him to do things or be in places after dark when it would be okay for his siblings.  Or even on the playground with a toy gun during the day.  A day will probably come when something goes missing from a place where he's been and he's the first one folks assume has taken it. I will have to explain to my children exactly why this is and how we will handle it together as a family.  I will have to tell him that not all police officers are going to be on his side.

If you are a (not black) mom, can you imagine for a minute what this must be like? How terrifying this is? And how heartbreaking?  I'm not alone. I am one of millions of mamas who will have to have this conversation with our precious children.

I didn't even know about this kind of conversation before we adopted. That's part of my white-privilege, I guess. I learned about it from black friends when they mentioned having it with their kids.  I am going to need help when the time comes because I honestly don't even know how to have the conversation. I grew up knowing the police would help me; that I would be given the benefit of the doubt and second chances.

Now is the time to speak, friends.  If you are an ally, please speak up. When you see racist comments on Facebook or when you hear them in your circles of friends or at work, please speak up.  Consider finding out what kind of training your local police force receives. Find out about body cameras.  Please don't be people who go silent when the news breaks about the next young black male killed. Please, for the sake of mama-solidarity. Stand with us.

When we speak up, racism diminishes.
When we speak up, we fight ignorance.
When we speak up, hope grows.
And maybe, just maybe, my children won't have to have that conversation with their kids.

from america.aljazeera.com

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Them

Them. They. Their culture. Their problems.

I'm hearing a bit of that this morning when I checked my phone to see how things fared with Ferguson last night.

Last night, my black boy and my white girl fell asleep together in the bed. Blissfully unaware of the culture in which they are being raised. And I lay in my bed and cried and prayed.

This morning, my black son will play with his white cousins who love him and be doted on by his white grandparents. And I'll probably cry and pray some more.

My family is US and my family is THEM.  When I hear that this is a "black issue," I feel it deeply. My son is black. I am white. I am raising one of those "black boys" that are filling our Twitter feeds.  I am the White Woman and I am the mother of the Black Male.

This is not a black and white issue.  It is a human issue. Threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.  Yes, riots make things worse and I don't condone the violence, but I must confess to being part of a system that has marginalized a population so much that they no longer trust the justice system.  I no longer trust the justice system when it comes to my youngest. I fear the day my sweet black baby boy has a run-in with the police.

And yet I know police officers and their families. Good sweet people who work hard and love others.

This is an US issue. WE are all humans. WE belong to each other.  WE made this mess and WE are making it worse. And when the people of Ferguson hurt, we hurt.  When mamas mourn the loss of their sons, it hurts all of us.  When police officers feel the sting of remarks about our police system and justice system, it hurts all of us.  Not all black men are criminals. Not all police officers are racist.  But our system and our culture is broken. And that hurts all of US.

Today may we look at this as a human issue. Acknowledge the brokenness, acknowledge the hurt without condoning the violence.  THEY hurt so WE hurt because we are all people.

"Let's not just make noise, let's make a difference."*


*Mike Brown's parents' response last night.