This week’s reflection article was scheduled to discuss refusing to allow what others say about us to change your opinion of yourself. I will post that next week. I felt compelled to share these thoughts instead… My heart aches for America. This week has been very hard. I deeply grieve for those who lost their lives this week due to violence based on anger, hate, bias, and fear. I weep for the young black men whose lives were cut short; who will not become their full potential due to the instantaneous decision made by officers to shoot to kill. I also weep for the officers who lost their lives as they demonstrated their selfless commitment to protecting others’ right to free speech. I am torn because I understand both sides of the coin. As a mother to my black son, I have seen several times throughout his 21 years where police officers have placed my son in handcuffs as he simply walked to the store because he “fit the description” of someone that committed a crime. I’ve seen where he was followed and pulled over due to a “traffic violation” — handcuffed and told to fall to the ground as they check the car for drugs (of which they did not find any). I’m not saying he is an angel, I know he has most likely gotten into mischief. I’ve stayed on my knees praying that any youthful mistakes don’t cost him a life in prison or loss of his life (men of color cannot afford to make too many errors). As a black woman, there have been times throughout my life where I’ve been followed by security while shopping, I’ve been told several times the price of something to confirm whether or not I could afford it. I’ve seen older white women clutch their bags while in the elevator with me. It is a common rite of passage in African American households to teach our sons and daughters the unwritten rules of how to speak and act to officers when (not if) they are stopped for any reason. Our heart sinks deeper because, at the time, the child doesn’t totally understand. They have that innocent, puzzled look on their face; however, we parents know that these babies will fully understand soon enough because either they or someone they know will have that experience. There are times when one feels frustrated because, in this day and time, people of color are still being treated like second-class citizens simply because they do not fit society’s description of who is “good and acceptable”. Doesn’t the rights declared in the Bill of Rights pertain to all people? It’s upsetting to see people who suppose to represent me become silent because it’s not politically correct or does not serve their agenda. Especially when they have the platform to pass legislation, strengthen existing laws and policies to truly make America the land of the free and home of the brave? On the other hand, I understand because my father was a policeman. Additionally, my spouse and several family members are in law enforcement. I know first hand the risks that are associated with wearing the badge. Every time they go to work, there is a greater risk that they may lose their lives as they protect and serve others. I have met a great many men of all colors who are committed to the oaths they made to uphold the standards of integrity, bravery, and honor to the community and the law. I’ve seen policemen use their own money to help someone or despite working 50-60 hours a week, they volunteer their time to make a difference in other’s lives. Families of these brave men and women also sacrifice because sometimes due to work, policemen may miss family, school and other social events. And, these men and women have to deal with the emotional and psychological stress that is a part of the job. Can you imagine your adrenaline is always high due to the nature of your job? How many more people have to die before we have the difficult conversations and confront the elephant in the room about race, gender, bias, and fear? With Freedom comes responsibility and action. Until we as a country come together and confront the lies and fears of what divides us, America will not survive. A country divided cannot stand. It is my prayer that none of these persons have died in vain and that each of us will reach within ourselves to refuse to hate and get angry at the real culprit: FEAR. Let’s hold ourselves and our public officials accountable to make individuals who do bad things (whoever they are) responsible for their actions. This weekend, you can begin by admitting any bias you have against certain groups of people. Ask yourself: Why do you feel that way? What facts support your beliefs? What would happen if you dealt with others on an individual basis? What would happen if you saw yourself as an individual first?