I was raised with a boy named Jacob. We were raised as siblings. We played together. We took baths together. We had slumber parties. We teased and tormented each other. With the one exclusion of blood relation, he and I are siblings. Jacob is the son of my godparents and when people ask me how we know each other, I quickly say he’s my brother and that’s usually met with confused looks.
You see, Jacob and I are fundamentally different in one very specific way. Our skin.
Growing up, I didn’t know we were different, but I knew we were not the same. His skin was darker, his hair more coarse than mine or my real brother’s. But in my world, he wasn’t “different”. I didn’t know he was “different” until the world told me that I should see him as “different”.
Somewhere along the line, probably in school, most likely on the playground, I learned that there are people who treat people who look like Jacob differently than they treat people who look like me. They think about skin tone differently. They actually see that person differently. I was raised without this filtered perspective on the world and I struggled to understand it. To this day, I struggle to understand racism.
There’s something else you should know about my brother Jacob and me. We were both raised by female police officers. This is important for two reasons.
One, we were taught that women can be and do anything. Women are no less capable than men. Period.
Two, we were raised to respect officers, not only because we lived with them, but we were forced to understand what it takes to earn and wear the badge. We are children of law enforcement. We know what it’s like to see stories in the news involving officers and feel our stomachs and hearts tighten just at the mere idea that it could be our moms. We know the overwhelming relief felt when we hear the front door close, their heavy belts hit the kitchen counter, and the glorious sound of them pulling at the velcro on their bulletproof vests. We were exposed to their work life and understand, more than anyone, not all officers are good. However, we were also raised to always have faith that the world will get better. That the good guys, whoever they may be, will win.
Today, we’re facing a world riddled with stories about police brutality and race. Violence is being answered with violence. Both sides are ardently and passionately defending the right to be heard. We need to have a conversation about this. It’s a hard, uncomfortable, and awkward conversation. Mainly because… no one knows what to do. No one has the answer.
How do we stop this from happening? How do we make the cycle stop?
I don’t have a solution that will fix what’s happening in the US right now, but I do have hope for the future. Because the future is what we can control.
We have to do better. Raise your children like our parents raised us. Be blind to differences and focus on our similarities. Teach love, respect, and faith in a better world. Do not pass along generalizations and stereotypes to young people. Reach out to others and help them. Practice empathy and compassion every day.
Your every day actions matter. Small behaviors can lead to big changes. Don’t let the violence and anger steer you astray. I could spit out every cliché in the world here, but you get the idea. Do better.
Please. Do better.