We are a measured society. Our actions fall under values we would wish to believe manifest in our background, cultural mores, the manner we were raised, the people by which we surround ourselves. In order to feel a certain sense of security, I want to believe in doing the right thing, living a life of compassion, respect and understanding. I often fall back upon the only attribute I can always count on to help me move forward – the concept of love. We all have a penchant for understanding what kindness might do to enhance our own personal confidence in who we are and how we go about our lives.
What I just described is how I live my life. I might go through my day with concern of other’s perception of me, but nowhere in my day have I ever felt a concern for my welfare beyond evaluating my own actions and making the right decisions to maintain a moral and dignified life. I have never felt my reality to be threatened by violence of any sort. Even those bullying moments in my childhood didn’t amount to anything as traumatic as senseless loss of life over and over again. I lost my cousin when I was 12 years old – he and I were six months apart in age, and that tragedy changed the course of my young life. What is important to recognize about that moment is that I didn’t have to get used to loss being right around the corner of all my actions throughout every living moment of my existence.
I am a White man living a privileged life.
When George Floyd lost his life last May during the Memorial Day holiday, I struggled to understand his loss. I tried to imagine the pain his world endured and I could not wrap my head around it at all. I couldn’t go and visit the memorial. I felt like I didn’t belong there. I felt pain and compassion for his loss and the impact on the community, including the horrific repetition of a systemic assault upon the welfare and safety of people of color in our society. I realized the Black community lived in a measured life far different than my own.
Daunte Wright lived a measured life. His every action has been based upon and judged by the color of his skin. His safety was when he was surrounded by his friends, his family, the people he counted upon to always be there for him, to not judge him, to never ostracize his position in their lives.
I once sat in a roundtable discussion of an equity based forum, a group whereby I was one of only a couple of white participants in a mix of a dozen contributors. The end discussion was a share of how we all felt about the last hour of a courageous conversation. I spoke out and suggested this was a fascinating hour and that I needed to process this and probably write about my feelings later in the week. I felt confident I was speaking accurately from my heart. A woman on my right said to me, “I’m glad you are going to do that, to process this day – good luck with that.” She then suggested she will get up from the table and be immediately immersed with a need to survive as she goes about her afternoon. She said “I have to be aware of myself in my every move the moment I walk out my door in the morning until evening when I can return to the security of my own home.”
I was actually a bit shocked, perhaps mortified at my naive approach to the measure of someone else’s life far more impacted by the nature of racism in our society. A woman on the right of me after listening to me rationalize my ignorance then plead, “when are white people going to let go of their white guilt and just acknowledge their role in privilege in our society.” Stunned again I thanked everyone at the table for letting me share in the discussion and allow me to have my takeaways. I was humbled. I was measured in the moment, but that feeling paled to the measure I realized people of color will experience every moment of their lives.
Daunte Wright’s life was certainly measured and he suffered a tragic end to living his life in goodness and flaw. The paramount misperception without question the color of his skin. The evidence would suggest a travesty has occurred, one that repeats itself so frequently there are protesters today walking the streets wearing t-shirts with a dozen names printed in a list of losses our Black society has experienced at the hands of ignorance. The world around Breonna and George and Michael and Philando and now Daunte are rampant with a confusing measure of importance in a country where the color of our skin is on the forefront of everyone’s mind. It is important to understand how measures play a role in perception.
There will be push-back. There always is. I have a good friend whose husband, also a friend is a police officer in the twin cities. She once described to me the fear she has every time her husband has to walk up to a parked vehicle he has pulled over for a traffic violation. I wish that analogy could be as simple and educational as it sounds, but there is a greater argument to be had about discrimination, fear, confusion in a hurting society. We are all being measured, however there is a much greater consequence for people of color in a world that still after decades beyond the civil rights movement of the 60’s continues to perpetuate a thinking of ill-met measure and judgment that has nothing to do with the whole of our humanity.
We are all products of the same nature of human beings relying upon eating, sleeping and communicating with each other to live our lives in a kind, forgiving, loving manner. We all do live measured lives some with greater extremes than others. The truth is we need to be measured the same – we need to leave privilege behind and begin loving one another for whom we are rather than forcing our neighbor to adjust their lives based upon the color of their skin.
We need our measuring stick to endure the confusion and misperception of years of trauma and perpetual ignorance and begin to love one another with kindness and acceptance. We need to be measured by a universal humanity and not one of misguided and horrific judgment.
© Thom Amundsen 4/2021
A response to the tragic death of Daunte Wright, of George Floyd, of Breonna Taylor, of Philando Castile and the countless names that preceded death based upon fear.