On Feeling Safe at Home (in Your Own Country)

I haven’t written in eleven days.  It isn’t for lack of topics and events.  My mind and body have been moving at warp speed, busy, busy, busy.  (Of course, I mean that as what amounts to warp speed for me.)  It is both my reason and my excuse for avoiding writing.  Not only do I feel too busy (no time, no energy for the blog), but I also feel that so much is happening that I can’t adequately describe the events or express my feelings about them. 

That was yesterday.  Today I can see that President Obama’s criticism of the Cambridge police force and his subsequent conciliatory action toward them is still raising discussion, and I have two cents worth to add. 

In 1977 I was a married student living in a campus apartment in a building owned by Vanderbilt University.  There were businesses on the ground floor – a bank branch, a record store (the one I visited daily while I awaited the release of Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life), and others.  One day there was a bank robbery.  Soon after, my husband heard a knock at the door.  He opened it to find a group of Nashville policemen, their assault rifles drawn and pointed at him.  They entered, questioned him, looked around our apartment, and left without apology.  When we discussed the incident with neighbors who were home, we discovered that no one else had been similarly invaded.  My husband, the only dark-skinned tenant, was a target. 

There is a special vulnerability that comes from being threatened in your own home.  When the threat comes from those who are sworn to protect and serve, it leaves you with a horrible, gaping wound – an affirmation that you are not of value in your own country.  Dr. Gates should have been permitted to retreat into his home without further harrassment, surely already humiliated and embarrassed by the assumption that he was breaking into his own house.  Instead, he was handcuffed (- handcuffed!!!) and taken to the police station.

As for the African-American member of the Cambridge police, who says he completely supports the actions of his colleague – I imagine his family needs to eat.  He can’t afford to not be a team player.   

Dredging this up makes my stomach hurt.  If you know me personally, you know that my gut is made of iron.  My college days were punctuated by incidents like these.  All the feelings come back.  I’m a naive 17 year-old freshman, in a non-violent protest against some discriminatory practice at the office of the administration.  I am a 20 year-old married student, walking down the street with my dark-skinned husband, hearing some misguided citizen yell at me “Nigger lover!”  I am in a premed counseling session, with the program director assuming that I want to go to an all-black medical school-no, assuming that I cannot be admitted to a majority school. 

One person’s teachable moments are another one’s life.

Peace.

Advertisements

One Response

  1. I’m saddened that discrimination and bias are still a part of our society. Thank you for putting your .02 in there.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: