We’ve had three high-profile racial incidents in this country in the last two weeks. When are we going to say enough is enough?

A manager in a Philadelphia Starbucks store called the police after two black men refused to leave the premises. Apparently, they hadn’t bought anything but wanted to use the men’s room. They were not making a scene, nor were they armed. Yet they were taken away in handcuffs.

In a suburb of Detroit, a man with a 12-gauge shotgun fired at a 14-year-old African-American who had knocked on the man’s door in order to ask for directions to his school.

A black Harvard Law School student, who clearly was in crisis mode in the middle of Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was pushed to the ground and punched by city police.

There is a part of me that feels I don’t have much right to say anything, as a white woman living in the whitest state in the country. But then again, as the saying goes, “Silence is violence.” I despair that I live in a country where blacks, particularly young men, have to fear for their lives because they knock on the wrong guy’s door.

“I’m kind of happy that, like, I didn’t become a statistic,” Brennan Walker told a local news outlet after the Michigan incident. He said “his mother had told him that black boys were at risk of being shot by others,” The Washington Post reported.

That statement breaks my heart. It also makes me angry.

A nation’s first duty is to protect its children, but we fail them. We fail them in many ways, of course. We let them be beaten and killed by their parents. We refuse to pass gun laws that could keep our children alive in their schools. And we let the concept of race distort our judgment in disruptive and dangerous ways.

Although two of these incidents involve police action, the institutional racism that pervades this country does not begin and end with law enforcement. We are all complicit.

It involves everyone who overreacts to any situation in which the people who allegedly are causing trouble are black, by automatically assuming they are at fault. Ernest Owens wrote in Philadelphia magazine this week, “Black people have forever lived in a society that finds every reason to presume fault in our daily lives.”

I have no doubt about this. Anyone who has spent any time in places like Starbucks and Panera Bread knows there are people sitting around all morning on their computers, nursing the same cup of coffee. I once saw a woman open up snacks brought from home. When was the last time you saw white people taken out of a cafe in handcuffs because they were sitting there?

And then held in jail for nine hours?

It is not reasonable behavior to leave your house, run down your street and shoot at an unarmed teenager who had come to your door seeking help — and then had wisely decided to leave your property. This is not reasonable even if you are really mad because some other kid stole beer out of your garage.

I do understand that police officers toe a delicate line when dealing with potentially violent individuals, as they were in Cambridge. I understand the need for restraint. But punching a person who is displaying mental health problems is not good policing. It’s thuggish behavior.

I also have no doubt that hate speech and violence have become more palatable to Americans since Donald Trump took office. His reaction to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer was amazingly shallow. Both sides were at fault? Huh?

He also chips away at our civility with his vindictive tweets. Just this week he has been on a rampage because of the release of former FBI Director James Comey’s tell-all book. Trump called Comey “slippery … out of whack … a slimeball.”

They are playground epithets, to be sure, but Trump is rapidly eroding whatever ability we have left in this country to employ civil discourse.

In his magazine piece, Ernest Owens wonders if we are becoming inured to seeing blacks treated badly. I know I’m not; like him, I am “mad as hell.”

Owens writes, “If a controversial arrest video of two innocent Black men at a Philly Starbucks doesn’t compel you to start taking immediate action, you’re just a voyeur. Even worse, you’re a coward who would rather sit and indulge in an instant shock reaction off the backs of Black people’s suffering than actually do something.”

Are you ready to take your stand?

Liz Soares welcomes e-mail at [email protected]

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under:

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.