A Lesson Plan for America

It is a time for teaching. The downward spiral of violence in our communities must stop, and we must help raise up generations of citizens who will not tolerate or perpetrate it any longer.

This is a time for teaching.

I mourn with the families, friends, and co-workers of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, two more on the list of too many.

My father, after two tours of duty in Korea, served as police officer for 40 years in the city of Detroit. He was devoted to this country and to the profession of law enforcement, but he was also a fiercely outspoken critic of both.  He was the one who sat my siblings (2 brothers and a sister) and me down for “the talk” about the very real threat of police brutality for black people, especially for black males. He made us role play various scenarios and cautioned us that those who might harm us wouldn’t necessarily be white. He considered any cops guilty of such brutality as traitors to the oath of office and unworthy of the uniform. He taught us to respect the law and those in positions of authority, but he also taught us, by his own example and at a personal cost, to speak truth to power and stand for justice.

I’m a cop’s daughter. I know what it’s like to see Dad leave the house each day not knowing if he would come home.  He took on that risk willingly, bravely, and professionally, as do so many of the law enforcement personnel in this country. In fact, Dad helped establish a fund for widows and families of Black police officers, and the main fundraising event for that fund today bears his name. So, I mourn, too, with the families of Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, and Lorne Ahrens. Their deaths are tragic—but no more and no less than those of Sterling and Castile, or than the thousands of young lives violently taken in our communities. In the words of a great teacher, Ella Baker:

Until the killing of black men, black mothers’ sons

Is as important as the killing of white men, white mothers’ sons

We, who believe in freedom, cannot rest.

It is a time for teaching. The downward spiral of violence in our communities must stop, and we must help raise up generations of citizens who will not tolerate or perpetrate it any longer.

  • We should be teaching our children to be compassionate, to respect themselves and others.
  • We should be teaching our children not to prejudge other human beings, and that just because someone is different from them does not mean the person is dangerous or subhuman.
  • We should be teaching our children how to think things through before speaking (or tweeting, or posting, or updating their status).
  • We should be teaching our children to speak up or stand up for what’s right, to defend the weak, and aid the suffering.
  • We should be teaching our children that laws are made by the people, for the people, and the people have the power and responsibility to change those laws and/or the representatives who make them.
  • We should be teaching our children that true and conscientious civil disobedience carries a heavy responsibility and should not be entered into lightly.
  • We should be teaching our children that the laws must be applied to all of us—including those in law enforcement—equally and justly.

—————————–And these lessons are best taught by example.