Last January, seconds after the Packers beat Seattle 28-23 and midway through our usual postgame sprint to the car to beat the traffic, I turned and saw Lambeau Field ablaze in a colorful hail of fireworks.
That view, which I also photographed, has become a metaphor for 2020, a year that kicked off with such promise and has dissolved into a dangerous and, in some places, literal firestorm.
I’m still rooting for my team and, I have to say, it felt good to cheer for something last Sunday as I watched them beat the Vikings. But, I worry about the world around.
Shortly after the game, as I scrolled through various social media feeds, I saw a tweet from Martin Luther King’s youngest daughter, Reverend Bernice King, who said:
Praying for the two officers who were shot in Los Angeles. Praying that there is a revolution of values in this nation that delivers us from believing we have to diminish some lives in order to honor others.
I believe that we can cultivate a community that values each human being “making it out alive.” What if it was the norm for legislation and leadership to demonstrate care for both Oscar Grant and the officers? To be on the side of love and justice?
I stand with her because I believe no society can achieve justice without love and I’m all for a revolution of values.
I acknowledge the mortality of systemic racism and vow to work hard everyday toward its eradication. This requires clear vision both moving forward and looking back, and an honest effort to make some changes.
I also acknowledge the progressively difficult challenges officers face in the line of duty. Some make criminal mistakes that devastate entire communities and those officers should be held accountable for their actions by the communities they serve, the legal system they represent and by their fellow officers.
But I don’t support a broad condemnation of all officers. How could I?
I’ve watched first hand as CIT trained police officers effectively responded with sensitivity and skill to a young person in a mental health crisis. I’ve witnessed them patiently taking the time to explain to young offenders why their actions were dangerous to themselves and everyone around them. I’ve watched them deescalate potentially violent situations. I know the families that pray for them every time they leave for work.
Our legal system has reached a critical juncture and requires some major changes. We need to acknowledge that the mental health crisis in this country has placed a heavy burden on our families, teachers, social workers and police officers.
I do not support a movement to defund the police.
I do, however, support a comprehensive plan for restructuring a system that has become increasingly dangerous for everyone; a targeted allocation of local, state and federal resources; more funding for mental health treatment and crisis workers; minority intern, apprenticeship and mentorship programs; more POC representation throughout the legal system; fair housing and broader access to affordable nutrition; wholesale improvements in the educational infrastructure and an acknowledgement that these types of investments directly benefit our society at large.
Racism is a community health crisis that transcends the legal system and infects our medical, educational, housing, retail and business environments as well.
I wholeheartedly support a revolution of values that we can only achieve through a community effort and I think that starts with you and me seeking education, inviting conversation and encouraging legislation.
Toward that end, I appreciate the efforts athletes are making to participate in the discussion and I’m willing to listen to what they have to say, even though some of their views might be different than mine.
So much that we view as divisive today could be a means to draw us together. That’s the hope anyway.