Meet Them Where They Are
Updated: Nov 14, 2018
Where were you on the evening of July 7, 2017?
Around 9pm, I was checking in as "safe."
Thinking back, that entire week sounds like something out of a dramatic movie with sad ending.
We’d just experienced another round of publicized murders at the hands of law enforcement — another two black men — tragedies that once again hit too close to the homes of black and brown folks around the country who’d grown incredibly sensitive to this recurring narrative.
A few handfuls of fellow passionate, concerned humans gathered to do the thing we don’t often feel comfortable doing - we talked.
I was one of those humans, sitting at Union Coffee in Dallas, thinking aloud, seeking resolve and perhaps even a little comfort.
And near the conclusion of the meeting, it happened.
Just a few miles south of where we were sitting and seeking and listening, chaos. We learned of what happened, we checked in as “safe,” and we waited.
My thoughts immediately rushed to my child who was at home, even closer to the epicenter than I was. She was safe, too, our neighborhood, eerily quiet.
The shooting, the protests, the chaos - it all happened and was contained within just a few blocks in the middle of Downtown Dallas. Investigations spilled over into the coming days. I remember trying to make my way into the heart of Downtown days after the attack to get my passport. Zoe and I had a plane to catch the next day. We couldn’t even get to the street of the passport office as the entire block was still closed. Our trip out of the country would have to wait another day. I went to Mexico for a week and tried to forget. I didn’t know that the next 365 days would find me in the middle of working with people deeply entrenched in the “the work.”
And now, here we are, one year later.
Some folks are marching.
Some folks are posting.
Some folks are hosting and heading to events.
Some folks could care less.
Some folks are angry.
Some folks are sad.
And a lot of black and brown folks, while sympathetic to the loss of life, are still having a hard time understanding how we honor the loss of life innocent police officers, but don’t know how to honor the loss of life of regular black men, some of whom were heroes in their own circles.
This…this is a tricky road to navigate.
Everyone wants to be understood. EVERYONE. It’ll be tragically difficult to move forward if we don’t just reconcile that fact in our heads right off the bat, especially if any of you reading are of the breed “others focused” humans. It sounds so cliche, but it's easy to forget that instead of working to be understood, our first step has always got to be working to understand, even if that means you are black and brown and hurt and confused, and your friends and brothers and sisters don't seem to have any understanding as to why you are so angry.
This is me asking you to avoid public social media blasting. I'll pay for both of you to go have a cup of coffee and start chatting it out. They're not you. They don't know your life because they didn't live it. Don't expect them to understand you.
These interactions happen one human at a time, not via a vast post to the universe. This is how slow, gradual change begins to take shape.
Meet a person where they are, and walk them to understanding. Shove and you lose.
That’s the long game. It’s not a button, but it is a process that works.
In the words of the late George Harrison, “It’s gonna take time, a whole lot of precious time. It’s gonna take patience and time to do it right, child.”