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Hoping For A Better World Before I Stop Breathing

Black Lives Matter sign along Gravois

I can still breath, but far too many can’t anymore — due to police brutality.  Here’s how Cambridge Dictionary defines brutality:

/bru??tæl.?.ti/ behavior that is very cruel or violent and showing no feelings for others.

Cruel or violent. No feelings for others.

The Police aren’t cruel & violent toward everyone, their clear target is black women & men. Breonna Taylor & George Floyd were the most recent victims.

I was just over a year old when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis. The killing of unarmed black men had been going on for decades at that point, though it didn’t make the news then. Now it seems we’re still grappling with one senseless killing when another occurs.

Since I was diagnosed with stage four kidney cancer last fall I’ve cried a lot. But I’ve come to accept I have 1-10 years left to live. What’s harder to accept is my final years will likely be marked by a deadly virus and the continued killing of young unarmed black women & men.

I know as a white male I’ve been fortunate. My mom didn’t have to worry if I’d be killed just for being myself. Actually that’s not quite true, as a very out gay man my mom worried about AIDS or me being beaten to death.

Still I’ve lived my 53+ years unafraid of the police. I’ve been pulled over before and given the officers a hard time about not wearing their seat belts — a black person could never do such a thing. I grew up in Oklahoma City but never heard a word about the 1921 Tulsa race massacre when white mobs entered and destroyed a thriving segregated Black Wall Street. Not. A. Word.

Aerial over Washington DC shows BLACK LIVES MATTER in huge letters leading to the White House

Peaceful protests are the foundation of our democracy. Seeing the many protests all over our region is very encouraging. I have friends out protesting, I’d join them if it was physically possible.

Those who started riots & looting are not protestors, they’re agitators. They come out when the opportunity arises. The protestors are not rioters. Protestors are not looters.

The 7-11 at 17th & Pine was burned a week ago.

White folks are often uncomfortable during times like this when there are mass protests. Good! Black folks are uncomfortable every day so it’s about damn time white folks feel uncomfortable.

When I’ve cried the last few weeks it’s not because I’m going to die in the coming decade, but because young black  women & men have died so violently at the hands (knees) of police, citizen vigilantes, etc. Recently I also cry every time I see the video of the old white man shoved to the pavement by police in Buffalo NY. They just kept walking past him. Cruel & violent indeed.

Homemade billboard along SB I-55 in Illinois demonstrates the slave owner mentality still exists. Location is just south of Farmersville IL in Montgomery County.

The defense is often just following orders, following the lead of higher rank police. The culture of the institution is the problem, in every city from coast to coast. It’s pervasive. Old institutions take forever to change, but my time is limited.

I thought after Rodney King things would change. I thought so again after Michael Brown. Small incremental changes around the edges isn’t enough. We must rethink what policing means in 21st century America, including discussions around dismantling & defunding.

We must stop treating our black citizens like escaped slaves.

My bucket list includes travel and such, but I’d forget it all just to not have any more unarmed blacks killed. I’d like to go out knowing the world will get better, not worse, after I’ve stopped breathing.

Black Lives Matter!

— Steve Patterson

 

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