Why are we so Angry?

My last post was essentially an Angry Rant about people Angry Ranting on the internet. Yes. I see the hypocrisy here. Of course, when you’re angry, it’s kind of hard to think clearly. All you can think about is your anger, and what’s fueling it, and you just want to lash out. And I did. And I’m sorry. While I had many friends that could empathize with my position, I knew that I had written it in anger, not love. So I removed the post. 

 

It’s got me thinking about why am I so angry? Why is everyone else so angry? It’s also got me a little more sympathetic for everyone else’s Angry Rants. Yes. I see. When you are angry, it’s hard to be kind and respectful and thoughtful. 

 

I’m going to try again. 

 

Take 2

 

So, why are we so angry? 

 

I can’t speak for everyone else. I can tell you some of the things that have made me angry recently. 

 

I am angry about a pandemic that has shut down my normal way of life. I am angry that the leadership is so divided, that I have no trust in how my country is dealing with this. I am angry that the news media is so biased, I have no trust in what they are saying and now I feel like I am sifting through mountains of information, and it’s just a guess as to which one is true or false. I am angry at the stories of Police Brutality that have come to light. I am angry that I really wasn’t clued in to what was happening. I am angry that I seem to have no tangible way of making the situation better. I am angry at how politicized the whole thing has become. Instead of a human rights issue, the media (on both sides) seem determined to make this a Political Party issue. I am angry at how divided our country is. And there doesn’t seem to be any way to fix it. I am angry that we are turning against each other on social media, drawing lines in the sand on issues, that many of us just really don’t fully understand. 

 

I am angry at how this shut down has made my life so much more difficult as I try to raise a large family. I am angry that I am exhausted and the light at the end of the tunnel seems very far away and it keeps flickering, like it might disappear. 

 

I am angry at myself for not being “better”, “stronger”. Why do I have to be so weak? Why do I have to struggle with depression? Why can’t I rise above my circumstances? 

 

Before I took my post down, a friend commented on my Facebook page that he disagreed with my sentence I had written that said, “We are better than this.” He pointed out that we are actually worse, and it’s only God’s grace that has kept us at any kind of level of civility (paraphrased). And I had to agree. He’s right. We are all so capable of so many horrible things: anger at each other, racism, superiority complexes, oppression, hatred, murder. 

The other day I was faced with a confession by a fellow human being, they told me of a horrible deed they had done and I was shocked. Shocked into silence. You did what?? How? I just sat there. There were no words to offer sympathy and justification for the deed, just horror. And suddenly, I found myself preaching the Gospel. This is why Jesus came. All of us have done bad things. Every single one of us. And none of us can fix it. None of us can make all those bad things go away. We are completely helpless. And Jesus came. He lived the perfect life for us. He died on the Cross and paid the price for these horrible things that we have done. He wiped the debt clean. He removed the offense. He is the only one who can make us pure again. We need to come to him. Confess our sins. Ask his forgiveness. Accept his forgiveness. Have faith that he has made all things right again. 

 

That’s where we are at as a country. We have done horrible things. We have turned a blind eye, we have walked in pride, we have vented our anger, we have mocked and scorned each other. There is no way to fix this. People who are concerned about White Privilege feel that old debts need to be repaid. How?  It is too big, too messy, too arbitrary. White Privilege is in essence the privilege of the ruling class which has been going on since the beginning of time in every single country that has ever existed. How can we go back and fix every single wrong? And yes. It is definitely wrong. It is sin. It is evil. 

 

I would say that it can’t be fixed. Every single one of us needs forgiveness. You might say, I’m not a racist! I don’t have any privilege! Or maybe you are black or another one of the minorities, and you say, Hey, I didn’t do anything wrong, I’ve just been wronged against. 

 

Maybe, in the matter of race, you are completely innocent. But can you say the same for every other area in your life? 

 

All have sinned and Fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23

 

I look at the mess we are in. All the anger. I am overwhelmed, there are no words to fix it. And so I will preach the Gospel. Because, sappy as it is, Jesus truly is the only answer. And I’m not talking about a religion. I’m talking about the God who says, “Love Me and then Love your Neighbor as Yourself.” And then he gives us his Holy Spirit to give us the power to do those two things. 

 

And as I focus on Him, some of the fear eases away. And as fear eases away, I suddenly don’t feel like I have to lash out. Yes, I can still be angry at injustice, wrongdoing, violence. But, I can also get a bigger perspective. This is a spiritual battle. (As a friend reminded me today!)I need to be praying for my enemies, not gloating over them. Each person I meet is a soul that needs Jesus. My anger isn’t going to save them. But my love and compassion might. 

 

Knoxville Police Department’s answers to my questions…

After my last blog post, I decided it would be good to just reach out to our local police department to get some information. I contacted them on their Facebook page and this is what I wrote:

 

Hi, my name is Esther Heneise. I live in East Knoxville, off of Magnolia. My children attend Sarah Moore Greene, Vine, and Austin East. Right now, as our country is going through the present turmoil over George Floyd’s murder, the attention has turned to the Police Force. I know that you are very busy, but I think it would be very helpful for me and the general public if you put out an official statement describing how our police force trains against excessive use of force, profiling, racism, and exactly what actions are taken if a police officer is caught doing these things. Also, are there any steps that people can take to seek justice if they feel that they have been treated unfairly by a police officer? My daughter wants to be a police officer, but she has not shared this dream at Austin East where she goes to school, because none of her friends would support her. There is definitely a culture at the high school level of police being the enemy. I am curious whether there are any programs in place to try and combat these bad public relations? if you have any time to answer these questions I would appreciate it. I am thankful for all that you do in our city and in my neighborhood. Sincerely, Esther Heneise

This was their response:

Hello Esther. Thank you for reaching out with your concerns.

Knoxville Police Department officers are trained extensively in human relations, cultural diversity, ethics in policing and de-escalation tactics, both during the Recruit Academy and throughout their careers.

 

During the Recruit Academy, trainees receive nearly 60 hours of training devoted exclusively to those topics, but that serves merely as a foundation that officers will continue to build on through their experiences in the field and continued training. That training is provided through daily squad roll call briefings, which can be formally administered through the Field Training Officer Program or initiated by the squad supervisors.  Additionally, all officers are required to complete yearly in-service training to maintain POST certification. 

 

We want to assure you that the Knoxville Police Department has the policies, procedures and training in place to address any issues and ensure that we deliver the best possible service for the community. Both the police department and training academy are accredited through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies and are continuously evaluated to ensure compliance with industry-tested standards.

 

Per policy, Knoxville Police Department officers are directed to only use the force that is objectively reasonable to effectively bring an incident under control, and should only use force when no reasonable effective alternative appears to exist. The policy, of course, acknowledges that each encounter is unique and that numerous factors figure into the decision making of the officer in that circumstance. However, the preferred outcome of an encounter with a non-compliant subject is that the presence of an officer or de-escalation techniques are successful in obtaining compliance. 

 

With that, there are safeguards in place to ensure that officers are using force appropriately and treating all citizens with the respect and decency that they deserve from those tasked with protecting and serving the community.

 

Citizen complaints can be submitted either directly to the Internal Affairs Unit or separately to the Police Advisory & Review Committee. In either instance, those complaints are taken seriously, investigations are conducted if proven necessary and officers are held accountable for their actions. 

 

Use of force reports are submitted following all circumstances in which the subject sustains an injury, the subject complains of injury, medical attention is required or requested, or more physical means that result in an impact are utilized. All use of force reports are reviewed by an officer’s immediate supervisors, the District Commander and the Internal Affairs Unit, who conducts any follow-up investigations if it is deemed necessary. 

 

We feel that the evidence suggests that our efforts are working to bring every encounter to the most peaceful conclusion possible. In 2019, despite seeing an increase of 20,000 calls for service, we saw an over 28 percent decrease in use of force reports. 

 

The Department also utilizes its Early Warning System to monitor officers. That system exists to identify officers who generate numerous use of force reports and complaints of misconduct or are the recipient of numerous disciplinary actions. For those identified by the Early Warning System, the KPD evaluates their behavior, addresses it directly, and determines the appropriate action to take, which can include reassignment and termination if that behavior is not corrected. 

 

The Internal Affairs Unit is also responsible for putting together quarterly biased-based policing reports to ensure that no officer in the Department is involved in bias-based profiling and that all officers are acting within policy. If any issues are identified, the Internal Affairs Unit makes recommendations for training directives or policy changes. 

 

All of our efforts and training are based around de-escalation and cultural competency. Those things are intricately interwoven into everything we do, teach and expect of our officers. Though they often enter into tense and unpredictable situations, officers do not want to have to use force to bring an incident under control. We want to understand and connect with every citizen we encounter, and provide the service that the community expects and desires. We strive to treat every individual with the utmost respect, decency and dignity.

END TEXT

I am thankful that they took the time to answer my questions. Thinking ahead, as to how this information might be helpful…Perhaps, having a general education campaign that lets the public know what their rights are as far as their interactions with the police, and also making it very clear, and user friendly, how the general public can file a complaint. Perhaps even having a liaison, or go between, who could help someone file a complaint when they have been the victim of profiling or have been made to feel in danger by the police. Maybe these are things that would help black people in our community feel that they have a voice and a safeguard against wrongful behavior? What do you all think?

 

Thoughts on George Floyd

As I’ve scrolled through FaceBook the last couple days, I see everyone posting about the murder of George Floyd. I’ve seen a lot of different posts. Angry, Black Lives Matter, kind of posts. Sarcastic Memes saying that conservatives are a lot more worried about themselves than about this Man’s Death. Posts that wonder if there is a conspiracy afoot, perhaps this was done intentionally to stir up a riot. There have been several very good posts from Black Men who have introduced themselves, humanized themselves for the general public, in an attempt to take away the scary stereotype of “Dangerous Black Man”. I have seen mothers of black boys lamenting and praying over their son’s futures. I have seen a lot of people dismissing their need to be involved in any way because of the riots that have come afterwards, thus proving that this is not a cause they want to support. I have seen people turn this into a sermon illustration, this is proof that we all need Jesus. And I’ve also seen a couple very helpful posts that give a list of things that white people can do to fight against racism. 

 

I find myself asking the questions, what can I do? Have I done enough? Am I doing enough? What would I do if I had been an observer on the sidewalk, seeing this happen before my eyes? 

 

And I keep thinking about my teenage daughter. She has lived in an inner city, primarily black neighborhood, all her life. She has been attending inner city schools for four years. All of her friends at school are black. And this daughter of mine has a secret dream of being a police officer. She wants to work her way up to Detective. She has a plan of how she’s going to achieve her goals. She’s excited about it. And she told me that she has never shared this with anyone at school. She wouldn’t dare tell anyone at school. She tells them she’s interested in forensic science. And she confided to me that she didn’t think she would be able to work in our city. It just wouldn’t go over well with the people she knew. 

 

When I lived in Alaska, I had several friends who were in Law Enforcement. I know a couple down here as well. They are all people that I would trust my life to. I am pleased that my daughter has this dream. And I’m worried. 

 

I think about the video of George Floyd. Why didn’t any of the other officers interfere? Why didn’t they say something? Why didn’t they take any action? According to another post I saw, kneeling on his neck was not a police procedure. And according to yet another post, this guy has a long history of abusing his position as a police officer. Surely the other officers knew his character? Knew what kind of person he was? Is there some kind of protocol that was keeping them from interfering? 

 

What kind of system is this that one person can be doing evil in front of their peers, and no one takes action? 

 

I know that a lot of people dislike Black Lives Matter because they feel that it is anti-police. Or they feel that any criticism of our current police force will end up in having our police force nationalized instead of it being a local thing. 

 

I personally think that our police forces should be local. I am also Pro-police. I live in a neighborhood that deals with a lot of crime and violence. I depend on being able to call the police for help. But I don’t think it’s Anti-Police to be calling for reform, to be calling for some drastic changes that would make this type of violence impossible. It’s personal. One day my daughter might be one of those policemen. I want to know that she is entering a force of men and women who are accountable for their actions, who are taking great pains to be fair and equitable. 

 

I personally don’t know any bad stories about our local police. But, I do know that the culture at my children’s school is such that my daughter would never share her dream of being a police officer. I don’t know the stories, the history, the personal experiences that have led these children into believing that the police are their enemy. But the stories, the history, the personal experiences…they exist. We are reading about one of those stories right now. 

 

Racism exists. Police violence exists. George Floyd should not have been killed. We should all be outraged. 

 

Let’s focus that outrage into something tangible. I know, for myself, I know next to nothing about my local police force. I am very curious what rules and regulations they already have in place to combat racism and police brutality. I am sure they have something in place. I wonder how effective it has been? I wonder what their track record is? 

 

I imagine that with a couple well placed emails and phone calls, I could probably get those questions answered. I think I could probably even ask the question, what is the police force doing to start making positive connections with the young people in our neighborhood? Maybe they already have a plan that they are working on, that I just haven’t heard about. Maybe they have programs that need volunteers. Maybe they are aware of some weak places that need changes, maybe I can advocate in the proper places for those changes to happen. 

 

Let’s do something tangible. Don’t just blow up FaceBook with your grief and anger, turn this tragedy into something good. George Floyd was killed. And that motivated me to get involved in my community and start advocating for changes. And that is how we turn this senseless tragic death into something that will go forward. And this is how we honor George Floyd. 

Thoughts on Race from the Racially Awkward

Today I was at the grocery store. A group of us shoppers were crowded in line, paying for our groceries. I was just finishing paying and I smelled this amazing aroma of fried chicken. I glanced behind me and there was a really large black man standing there waiting to pay. I commented, That chicken smells so good, it makes me want to go get some! He commented back that he wasn’t even going to get to eat it, it was for someone else. I sympathized and went on my way with my groceries. A typical southern grocery store interaction. As I was walking out, I wondered why all interactions with people of a different race can’t be like that. Just two people chatting together in the grocery store line, not seeing color.

The problem is, I know that it goes a lot deeper than “I just don’t see color”. I was reading a book on American history that was focusing on the nonwhites in America. The atrocities that were committed against the Native Americans blows my mind. Sure, we all know that the white people and the Native Americans fought wars with each other, weren’t friendly with each other.. But have you ever read the actual accounts of what happened?  What is most horrifying is reading the historical documents written by the white men who led these atrocities and realizing that they did not see Native Americans as people. They just weren’t human, so it didn’t really matter. Looking at the history of slavery in America: for 200 years the white people kept black people as slaves. Again, there seemed to be a total lack of acknowledgement that black people are humans. Then after slavery was abolished we had the Jim Crow laws for almost another 100 years that were designed to keep black and white people separated as much as possible. Again, not seeing black people as humans. This is the history of our country, and it’s not a distant history. My father’s generation can still remember segregation. 

I am puzzled when people say that racism is a figment of the black person’s imagination. I see examples of it all the time, just in the comments that people make in my hearing. Besides, our country was founded on racism. It is a blight on our country. I really struggle when people say that we live in a Christian country, founded by Christians, and it is only in the past couple decades that we have wandered from our true roots. I struggle with that, because I read about our true roots being genocide. Stealing land. Enslaving an entire race for several centuries. These are not actions that I would proudly stamp with the label “Christian”. I’m not saying that our country is all bad. Our constitution laid a foundation that could eventually lead to freedom for all. But, it took us a long time to get here. And I’m not convinced that we have truly arrived yet. 

Now, things are different. All races are legally equal. All races are legally protected. We are now supposed to be a united, non-racist country. Except that we are still awkward with each other. There’s a lot of mistrust. There’s a lot of misunderstanding. I know that I myself am Racially Awkward. I see all races as equally human, equally important. But, I’m not comfortable around all races. I tend to feel like I’m walking on eggshells. Afraid that I’m going to inadvertently say something offensive. Afraid that I’m going to come across the wrong way. Afraid that my actions will be misinterpreted. I wish so much to be friends with people of other races and show that I am not racist, and show that “I don’t see color”, and say, look, I am not part of that whole horrible history of white people. But, I don’t know how to do it, and so I am just Awkward. 

I wish that we could just be blunt with each other. My family lives in a primarily black community in the South and my kids are often the only white person in their class. They relate conversations to me and I sometimes cringe. The high schoolers have no problem hurling racial epitaphs at each other and joking about race and poking fun of each other and I think, Is that ok? Is my kid crossing the line? Is he being unfairly picked on because of his color? But, at the same time, I envy them. Because they don’t seem to have any inhibitions. They just say what they’re thinking to each other. The awkwardness isn’t there. 

I’m not sure what the answers are for our country. I think some real educating on the racial history of our country would be good. Let’s not gloss over what happened in order for us to claim this land as our own and create our own country. Let’s be honest about it. As a Christian, I think it would be totally appropriate for those who call our country a Christian Country to enter a time of mourning and fasting and repentance, to stand in for the sins of our ancestors. We need to keep ferreting out laws and regulations that are keeping true equality from happening.  And then time. We need time. We need our kids and our grandkids to be able to live in a world that isn’t tainted by the sins of our past. Where they can establish true equality and true brotherhood. 

In the meantime I will continue to pursue friendships with people who look differently than me and maybe one day, I will stop being awkward. But it’s going to take practice. And that is something I can do. 

EDIT POST: I have been thinking on this some more. I have been friends with people of all races and many different nationalities most of my life. I think my awkwardness developed much later as an adult. Perhaps it’s just because I became more aware of racial tensions where before, I had been oblivious.