Thursday, July 14, 2016

If you give a cop a cookie....and other musings

So, if you want to know what prompted my random "Give a Cop a Cookie" day.....

Pics with the Chiefs (Chief Banks -Left, Assistant Chief- Right)

Thank you note and prayer card for RoundRock PD and Pflugerville PD.

Fun fact: Turns out Chief Banks is a member of my church (who knew?)

Shout out to Tiff's Treats and with all my driving the cookies were still warm!'s what I was thinking this week...

So, before you judge the subheading this is not yet another debate on Black lives versus all lives. Haven't we all had enough of that? I have. I'm exhausted trying to explain anyway. However, I wanted to preface this post with the idea that more than one thing matters in the midst of all the ugly we have been bombarded with this past week. 

If you've chosen a side, #sorrynotsorry. If you haven't chosen a side, good for you because Blue lives and Black lives are not football teams. So, surprise! I'm Black. And yes, there are so many layers to this onion I couldn't write a book that could tell it all. Nonetheless, I'll spare you the long story and cut to some of the chase. There's a phrase "being Black in America" that carries stories miles long, a depth so deep you probably would become lost, and feelings so raw that a mere touch on the matter could cause excruciating pain. You'll hear people say things like, "You'll never understand because you're not Black." You'll hear people discuss how we have appeared to progress but not really. How we never "truly" overcame, it's all just masked. To all of that I'll say there are definitely truths embedded in all those statements. Even so, "being Black in America" is comprised of a diverse group. You see, we're all still INDIVIDUALS and so even a matter such as this is viewed in a myriad of ways. There are always different sides, perspectives, facets, and that shady gray area that no one is really sure how to navigate. 

My "being Black in America" is not even close to some of the experiences had by some, but if you care to know.......... 
My family is educated. My parents didn't put up with any foolishness. You better do your best. You work hard. There wasn't ever a question about whether or not I would continue education after high school. It was automatic. It was expected. I grew up in a predominately white neighborhood. Went to predominately white schools from K-8. Many years I was the only black student in my class or class period. I didn't struggle to want for anything. My needs were met as a child. I didn't go to school or bed hungry. I was probably a Grammar Queen at a young age because when your mama is an English you have any other choice? I was exposed to different things and activities. I was taught to love everybody. There was no hate embedded in me. All people were made by God, including me, and that was enough to love them. 

Yet and still.....
  • In 4th grade I was called a monkey. Thankfully, I had good friends and they told the teacher. I think I just stood there in shock, like "Wait. My parents said this was not ok. Let me process."
  • I only knew that monkey was bad because somewhere along the yellow brick road of growing up, my parents taught me "names that no one should ever call you." Monkey was one of them, along with the N-word, gorilla, jiggaboo, etc. I later learned in my African-American Literature class in college that Black people just might have one of, if not the longest list of derogatory names used to reference them. 
  • I was also taught that the "world" will expect me to be less, and I must be more. I have to do more to be just as good. But, I digress....
  • In 5th grade, I developed a complex that lasted for several years after. Complex makes it sound so dramatic, but I don't know what else to call it. What was it you ask? Well, after my 5th grade year I didn't like being called Black. I wanted to be called African-American. Why? Because one day we had to create portraits of figures we liked/admired. A white student next to me drew Michael Jordan. He then picked up the black crayon and colored Michael Jordan. I know Michael Jordan is dark, like really dark, but I remember thinking, "We have multicultural crayons. Why didn't he use the dark flesh tone?" I chuckle a bit because I was so "analytical teacher Toya" even in 5th grade. Nonetheless, for some reason his picture bothered me. When he was finished, you could only see Michael Jordan's eyeballs, jersey and the basketball he was holding. Nothing else was recognizable. I remember him coloring with the black crayon so harshly, dark, bold strokes until the crayon was just a nub. I don't remember who I drew in my portrait. I'm 32 years old and still remember thinking as a 5th grader, "Is that how white people see me?" Just black. No features, no shades, no uniqueness, no differences, just black. There wasn't anything wrong with being black at all, until I saw that black crayon whittled down to nothing. I was taught black is good. Black is beautiful, and then it was handled so......harshly. I know, I know, we were 5th graders, and some of this in hindsight was probably a mixture of my need for things to be a certain way, you know, control. I colored with all of the colors and I SAW shades. Thinking all Black people aren't just one shade, kid. We're chocolate and mocha and latte and cream and bronze and honey roasted peanut and dark chocolate and fudge and milk chocolate and beige even. My daddy, my daddy is beige with a slight pinch of honey. My mama, my mama is a honey roasted peanut with a side of mocha. See, all the colors. So, needless to say after that I became an African-American 6th grader (held head high)- <you may laugh at me know>.
  • From 2nd-4th grade I wanted to change my name to Michelle (not knowing there was a Michelle Obama somewhere out in the world) because LaToya apparently was just as hard to say as Tchaikovsky. Of course we all know it's not, but if your name wasn't Amy or Sue you got "LaTanya","Tanya", "LaTOWya", or can I just call you "Toya?"I thought it helped that MJ's sister was named LaToya, but no. It didn't help. Takes me to present day, (some months back) I had to spell my name for a hostess to get a table at a restaurant. I said, "You know, like Michael Jackson's sister." The hostess replied, "Who is that?" So, I'm apparently old and black. Yay!
  • Middle school: When you had to read things like I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and "Tom Sawyer" and your classmates always managed to look at you when "words" or "black things" came up because you were the only one that looked like the people in the book. A look as if they were waiting on you to stand and speak on behalf of all black people. When you were really just thinking, "Ummm, I'm learning this at the same rate you all are. Thanks. Carry on."
  • Also in middle school, I went through the hair chronicles. Oh my gosh. Like, this was how I felt every time I changed my hair:
I mean I personally didn't have an issue with my hair. But, when you get to school and no one looks like you and you have different hair, you get:

  • Is that your real hair? How do you wash it? Will it come out? Why do "ya'll" braid your hair?
  • Take braids out. Did you cut your hair? How is it shorter now?
  • Get extensions. I love your hair! Can I touch it?
Normal Hair:
  • Go to a slumber party. Need to wrap hair. Why do "ya'll" have to do that?
  • Fix hair in the morning, you have a bag of products. Moisturizer, gel, wide tooth comb, brush. Your friends, however, just woke up, shook hair, and are ready. Really?

Now, mind you kids have absolutely NO CHILL. They will ask whatever, whenever. And I realized even then that everyone's parents didn't have a "Just don't ask certain questions" talk with their kids. There were things I wanted to ask too, but I was taught to think some things in my head and not say them. Also, some kids really were genuinely confused and wanted to know and understand black hair. Long version if you're still confused: Our hair is awesome. It's not like yours. I can't just wet it and go (although some Black people can), or blow dry it with my car air conditioner (although that would be convenient), it needs heat sometimes, a wide tooth comb. It's fragile. It needs silk wraps or it will dry out. Perms don't make our hair curly. Relaxers make it straight, so it's more manageable and less curly. We fluctuate between relaxing it and letting it be naturally curly. This is an ongoing thing, and allows us to have 85 different hair styles in one week. And this is why our hair is cool. And discussing why my hair is cool doesn't mean your hair isn't because see, All Hair Matters, I just happened to be talking about my hair at the moment. You have been enlightened. <takes bow>

  • When my daddy would drop me off at school, kids would ask if he was white because he was so light skinned. I was like:
  • I realized that not everyone was completely aware of the complexities of black skin. How many shades exist in our background. With tanning being important for some, I thought shades were obvious, but I digress....
  • Then I was asked if I was mixed, and you can refer again to the above Kevin Hart pic.
  • I was called an Oreo for several years, because black girls can't speak well, right? <insert heavy sigh>
  • I was too black for white and not black enough for black. An Oreo's epidemic. Although I'm not biracial, as a teacher, I know from my students this is a biracial issue as well. 
  • One time I was in Dillard's with my grandmother, and the clerk asked, "You girls need anything?" Unsuspecting me hadn't noticed anything wrong. But my grandmother whipped around as only she can do, and said "You girls?" The rest of the events are pretty fuzzy, but I remember learning that day that it was not cool to refer to a grown black woman as a girl, especially "You girl." Now, that derogatory list of black'll find "boy" and "girl" on that list too. May seem trivial to the outside world, but not when you were born in the 20s like my grandmother. Different times, different times, and words carry meaning a bit differently for all.
  • Around 8th grade, I decided ok I must attend a more diverse school. I had great friends at my middle school. Even was friends with a White African which was cool because we bonded over the ignorance of others. She was also asked crazy questions like me. Being tall, white, with a freckled face, and a kinky, curly red fro causes some confusion. She would always proudly say, "There aren't just black people in Africa. People are so misinformed." 
  • So, I decided I wanted to go to a different high school. My parents decided it was fine as long as I was in the Magnet program. Which although it was a predominately black school, the program allowed me to still meet a diverse group of students and teachers. 
  • High school: I was still an oreo. Go figure.
  • It was the first time in my life I had ANY black teachers. Pre-Calculus, Science, Government....
  • First time I didn't have to explain myself or explain "black things." 
  • Ironically enough I had White friends, Hispanic friends, Asian, Indian, etc.....which was not the case in elementary and middle school. One big melting pot! The way I believe God intended for us to be.
  • In college, my African-American Lit. studies professor was White. I remember the first day of class, one of my classmates (there were about 4 black students including me in the class) looked at me like:
Am I in the wrong class?
  • And oh the uncomfortable moments when we discussed poems, stories, and history referencing all those derogatory names for black people. He was a great professor, but I'm pretty sure my white classmates weren't as uncomfortable as we were. 
  • When I began teaching, I noticed I had some difficulties with my Hispanic males. I could't figure it out really. One day a teacher pulled me aside and said, "You know that some Hispanics don't like black people, right? And you're a woman. So, you're probably taking a double hit from your students. It'll take some time, but right now they don't trust or respect you. Not because you've done anything wrong, but because some are raised to feel this way based on who you are." What? I don't even remember who the teacher was, it was like one of those slow motion moments when someone tells you something that rattles you.
  • Nonetheless, I became more patient and sensitive to what I heard. I hate to admit, but there was something to what I was told. Eventually, I stopped getting the push back and I learned to be more patient with my male students, who at the time, were mostly Hispanic. I recently told that story to a colleague this year, and he said, "Oh yeah, that was totally it. I have a whole book about that on my bookshelf." What? and Wow.
That's not even the half of some of the circumstances I have encountered, but a long taste of how the seemingly ordinary still falls under the "being Black in America" umbrella. Many have harsher, more unbearable stories that I cannot even begin to fathom. I don't even have to look too far for those stories either. I'm sure I could find the most devastating ones just by backtracking my own family line. 

So, this is why what's happening right now has many quite sensitive. If you've always been settled in your own skin without these nuances, questions, double standards, injustices, etc. then it's hard to see. I get it. You think Black people are whining on forever. You say I know that you went from enslavement, to segregation, to guns and drugs planted in your communities, to mass incarceration.....but get over it. I've had a hard life too. I'm not complaining. I've seen these sentiments quite often, even before our nation split into Black and Blue. Don't talk about the problem, do something about it. Fix black on black crime, then we can talk about our justice system. I know these are the thoughts. I get how outside looking in it's easy to say. With all that said, the plight of Blacks, or African-Americans in America is real. It was never truly rectified. We just progressed into more subtle means of divisiveness. And in many regards, many became products of their environment. While everyone is telling Black people to shut it. Those who secretly feel they should probably aren't aware of how it translates. It's almost like I purposely knocked over your milk and am upset you won't just overlook the spill. Just clean it up. I know you didn't make the mess, but clean it anyway. The puddle has been there for so long that it's now just your responsibility to clean it up. Oh, and if it spills again (whether you or I knock it over) just clean it up and move on. 

We don't always control our circumstances, and yes there are times that we have had unfair, unjust things happen to us. We either decide to pull ourselves up or stay stagnant in the puddle. But, here's what's difficult: when it's JUST YOU it's a bit easier to do that because it's just you. You can give yourself the pep talk to snap out of it. You can say "enough already" this is unfair, but I cannot stay in this puddle forever. When it's a group of people, it's not that simple. When it's a century old problem, it's not that simple. When it's a systemic problem, it's not that simple. The current killings on both sides to me are merely symptoms of a larger sickness. Symptoms of wounds that never healed. Bridges that were never built with the intent to last. A mirage of progress. We're just currently in times where the volcano in America is erupting. We're a shaken soda bottle, and someone has unscrewed the top.

Same with police departments. They have similar feelings. They have similar labels. Unjust systemic problems that span decades in their line of work. Things that were never truly dealt with, and things that are overshadowing those who truly seek to do good. They've also had people knock over their milk with the directive to just clean it up. Or some just saw the spill and put a rug over it. Now it's mildewed, sticky, and stinks. And again I say, when it's a group, it's not that simple. You can't pen all the cleanup on one person. You can't just say fix it and stand by to watch. It takes so much more than "Just do it." 

The true answer is Jesus. In knowing this I can't help but think about how Jesus sees us and treats us. In reference to cases of men dying at the hands of police. Many cry out, just don't do anything wrong and you won't get hurt. While I can process that in some ways, I think of Tamir Rice. The 12 year old who was shot on the spot for having a toy gun. I'm sure he wasn't the first kid in America in a park playing guns. He's a kid, so do we hold children to the same standards as adults? He's not the only kid that has been killed by officers, nor is he the only Black kid. Still doesn't make it easier to swallow. I don't know, it's really hard to piece together. In other cases some say don't resist, some say, "But he had a record" so it's justified. Truth is none of us really know what happened, research or no research. Only God truly knows and to me it all looks really, really, bad. Bad enough to cause a check, a look-see, a how can we ensure that no one even gets into these circumstances, neither cop or civilian?

In spite of all that, here's what I'm thankful for....
I'm thankful Jesus doesn't tell us, "You have a previous record, one that is a mile long, one that deserves death and I'm going to let you have, death." I'm glad that Jesus doesn't remind me how many times I have resisted Him. I may remember, but He doesn't bring it up. I'm glad that Jesus doesn't paint me with a broad brush the way we have painted police officers and Black/Brown people. I'm glad that Jesus doesn't make me clean up my spilled milk all by myself, especially when someone else spilled it. I'm glad that Jesus is always about peace, unity, and love not hate, blame, and division. I'm glad that Jesus doesn't overlook injustices the way it is overlooked in our country. I'm glad that He fights FOR me at all times. I'm glad that he is the ultimate authority and that through Him love wins. Love wins. That was the slogan after the Sandy Hook shootings. Innocent kids slaughtered for no reason, but Love still Won. Countless numbers of people killed in police custody with minimal explanations, but Love can still Win. Officers murdered in Dallas, but Love can still Win. 

It's all unfair really. Unfair for police officers. Unfair for Black families. It's unfair for both sides because both sides matter. Yes, am I personally affected in certain ways because I'm black. Yes. Do I think we have a race issue in America? Of course we do. We've always had one. Do I think that there are double standards and biased opinions in regards to people of color? Of course there are. Are others personally affected because they are police officers or have family members that are? Yes. Do police officers have one of the hardest jobs there is? Yes they do. Are all police officers bad? No. No they aren't. Are there some bad ones, of course there are. Just like there are bad teachers, doctors, lawyers, etc. Is it unfair and unjust to criticize all officers? Yes. Is it unfair and unjust to criticize all Black people? Yes. Is it crazy that we live in a country where the KKK can still exist in 2016 while others feel the need to proclaim that they matter because they've been shown otherwise? Super crazy.

And this my friends, is our current state of affairs. We have to acknowledge that there is milk on the floor. We have to accept how it was spilled. And we HAVE to help each other clean it up. We can't keep volleying the ball back and forth. We can't put on a Blue jersey and disregard the Black team. We can't put on a Black jersey and disregard the Blue team. We can't tell each other it's all your fault. One thing about Jesus, He will help you clean up your spilled milk. However, He can't help you clean what you don't want to acknowledge is there. And because he loves you so much He won't allow you to keep ignoring the spilled milk. Little by little, as He refines you the milk gets cleaned up. As He dwells in you, you begin to see the spots, the stench, the stickiness, the mildew. You're motivated to change it with his guidance and help. And one day you look back and wonder how you ever lived with that spill as long as you did. Gosh, if we took this approach with our current happenings. If we cleaned little by little. If we searched our hearts. If we got outside of ourselves and reached over the line of division. If both sides are reaching and seeking to understand... If both sides are willing to make changes... If BOTH sides truly matter then BOTH WILL MATTER.  So, today I reached. Today, I stepped outside of the problems I know exist and I let officers know that #wesupportgoodpolice. While I speak on injustices Black people face that are real, it doesn't negate the fact that good officers of integrity and honor are being covered in a blanket of hate. So are Black people, this is true. But, Jesus always looked out for others. He prayed for our well-being and behalf more than His. He could have walked away from saving those who hurt him, but He didn't. So, to BOTH sides....why are we walking in opposite directions? I know, we're human. But, we don't get to just be human only when we're defending ourselves (that goes BOTH ways). We don't get to just say "Ooops" when we know better. Maya Angelou said it best, "When you know better, you do better." America, you have known better for a long time. It's time to do better. I heard once that people won't change, unless the pain of NOT changing becomes greater than the actual change. Verbose quote, but put simply: No one changes unless it hurts bad enough. I guess America hasn't hurt bad enough. We've been beaten Black and Blue over Blue and Black and we still are We all must do better because we BOTH MATTER. And as long as sides are taken and everyone stays in their corners, we will not have the quality of life Jesus intended for us to have. Sometimes the right thing to do seems unfair. It's tough, it hurts. It can be gut-wrenching, but I'm for right. And as my grandmother would always say, "I'm not going to stand for wrong." So, BOTH sides, feel free to leave your side and join me on the RIGHT side.  

How can you do that you ask?

Give a cop a cookie (or do something to show appreciation). Cookies don't begin to fix all the problems, but it can create a cyclical pattern that will promote love and change. If you've actually read "To Give a Mouse a Cookie," then you know that it ends exactly how it began.

Listen. It's ok that you may not fully understand "Being Black in America" or being a cop in America. However, just say "I see you, and I hear you." This tears down defenses and brings love.

Get out of your corner. Go do something happy and positive for somebody. Don't just sit and rant on Facebook all day. I know, I know. Mark Zuckerberg has afforded us the opportunity to say exactly what we think all the time. I too have fallen victim since Facebook was invented. But, let's stop it. I know your head hurts because mine does. Just stop. 

Unfollow the negative. If someone says something utterly stupid or one-sided. Just unfollow. Don't engage. Go to your War Room and tell Jesus. 

Don't allow others to poison you. If you are happy about police officers being shot or think they deserved it YOU ARE NOT MY FRIEND. GO AWAY. BYE.

If you are satisfied or happy with Black or Brown people being shot or think they deserved it YOU ARE NOT MY FRIEND. GO AWAY. BYE.

Join both. It's ok to be on both sides. I am, join me! It's quite peaceful over here. There's not much to argue. As a matter of fact, you can agree that both sides are facing some pretty horrible things right now. 

Pray. You still pray. Pray for truth. Pray for injustice. Pray for structural changes in our justice system. Pray for leaders. Pray for officers. Pray for the nation. Pray for your community. Pray for God to intervene. Pray that you can help bring more people to Christ. Pray for God to heal our land. 

Mentor some kids! Newsflash: Kids are just smaller people that grow into big people. The 4th grader who called me a monkey. He was TAUGHT that. Kids aren't naturally meanie-heads. They are taught to be. So, go mentor kids. Teach them to love people. Teach them to be respectful of everyone, not just cops. As a teacher, I've always taught more than the TEKS or curriculum. I remember loudly talking (probably yelling as if I was on a mountaintop) to a class before saying, "I want you to be good humans! It's not enough to just come to school and do your work. You need to also be good people! And Mrs. Morrison will not allow you to be less than a decent human being. Is that understood? Class: Yes, Mrs. Morrison. Sorry Mrs. Morrison.
What did they do? I forget, but they left that day with more than grammar.

Stop thinking you know everything. You don't know it all and neither do I, so let's stop pretending. We want to pretend because we want to prove something. We want to scream louder while saying the same thing because we think others will hear. They don't. They won't. So, action must accompany words.

Extend an olive branch. Come on people. Don't just sit and shake your head at Black people wondering why we're so upset. Don't just sit and shake your head at officers wondering why they are upset. Just extend the branch because BOTH have cause to be upset. I know we want to trump the other side by stacking up our hurts. I get it. Most Black people can write a dissertation on how we were set up as a people to fail from the day we were brought to America. We can log the amount of disaster, discrimination and devastation up to present day of what we have experienced. Officers too can write a dissertation on how thankless their job is, tough their job is, dangerous their job is, and the amount of disaster and devastation they have seen. We could both do this all day and stay in the same place. Get a branch. Extend it. 

Turn off the news. I mean it's becoming silly anyway. Once CNN was getting their updates from Twitter, I was done. And we won't discuss other networks. As John Mayer says, "And when you trust your television, what you get is what you got. Cause when they own the information, ohhh, they can bend it all they want."

On that note, listen to some John Mayer and tell gravity to get away from you and don't just wait on the world to change, try to help change it. Listen to some Marvin Gaye to see what's going on. Read a Langston Hughes poem because I am in awe of how things written in the past seem to be erupting right now. Read the Bible! Sometimes just holding it and crying on the floor helps too. Been there, done that.

So, in short (ha! You know my blogs are never short) you can be an activist. You can get involved. You can start a dialogue and help others see a different point-of-view, but above all...


Until next time.......