I Was Tear Gassed At Fifteen. I Don’t Want to Repeat That Experience. But…
Civic responsibility became a reality in about five seconds (actually, in exactly 8 minutes and 46 seconds)
I was in high school in a suburban white suburb. There were two black students in the entire school of over 2000 students. In a county and a city with a majority black population. Obviously it was long ago and far away. But not much has changed.
I was protesting the deaths at Kent State and Attica State state prison, and the underlying long term cause of Vietnam. I was a kid. A white kid. Black people scared me. I did not know any black persons. That was normal.
This has not changed. Fifty years later this reality has not changed. I’m 65 and a lot of my friends don’t know a single black or Latino person. My past as a musician changed that for me, somewhat. And renovating a house in the deep ghetto (that was the phrase back then), changed my life. But I was always a white guy, the most privileged caste in history.
You are on the record. We are on the record
I am not offering prayers for George Floyd. As a Buddhist I know whoever he was has moved on. But I find satisfaction that every moment of his death was recorded in color and real time, from multiple angles. In a world where anyone can share the video horror they saw. This is a change. At a protest in my hometown last weekend, the agitators were captured by multiple cameras, as were the looters. You are on the record. Bad cops. Criminal opportunists. Those who live for destruction. They don’t actually believe in anything beyond anger.
So, I suspect that at 65, there may be tear gas in my future.
After so many deaths of people of color at the hands of authorities and vigilantes, it still took 8 minutes and 46 seconds to wake up many to the longer term pandemic of racial violence that people like me have never lived with.
I don’t fear police.
I don’t worry about being profiled or accused of things I have not done.
This is called white privilege and, like many privileges, most of us don’t even know we have it. If I get tear-gassed it will be because I chose to take that risk. But many of those who will share that experience will have no choice.