*I drive for Uber. It gives me a great opportunity to meet a diverse group of people and because I have no problem at all conversing with ANYONE, I get to have incredible conversations with them. Last night two awesome people got into my car: a female police officer and a young man, 18, who aims to become a cop. Of course, I didn’t know the woman’s occupation at first, it’s not like she was in uniform. But these are the kinds of things you learn about people after you begin talking. As it turns out, she was in Dallas when all sh*t broke loose.
The first thought that came to my mind when I learned what she does was, “Whew! I am SO glad I didn’t say anything negative about the police!”
And did I mention she is white?
She told me she doesn’t work for the DPD, but for a private agency. We talked back and forth. I told her what I do and we both shared why we chose the careers we chose and how each of us really came into our chosen paths to make a difference.
She was the nicest person. And it really reiterated in my mind the importance of never forgetting that there are actual individuals behind these groups of people and that to judge the entire group, based on the actions of one person, is just plain wrong.
I made sure to say this to her in reference to the Dallas incident, where the actions of ONE LONE GUNMAN named Micah Johnson should NOT be aligned with the ideology behind the entire Black Lives Matter movement.
I noticed she was hesitant to agree.
And though she did not outwardly disagree, she did say that what she witnessed was a “war zone,” and it was hard to believe the gunshots “came from one person.”
I didn’t bother to suggest she remember COPS were probably shooting too.
She also spoke about how social media incites an aggressive and violent attitude. And while she mentioned her “shock” over the police shooting of Philando Castile, whose death after being shot in the arm several times by Jeronimo Yanez, a St. Anthony, Minnesota police officer -while his girlfriend’s child sat in the back seat of the vehicle, and the incident was captured on video and uploaded to social media, she was even more shocked by the calmness of his girlfriend, and her ability to “report the incident” as she sat next to the dying man.
I told her I was so proud of this woman, who, in spite of her devastation saw the importance in detailing exactly what happened to those on social media, before breaking down.
The police officer did bring up the fact that “the video was recorded” in the aftermath of the shooting, adding, so we don’t know if Castile had instigated it.
I didn’t back down. I told her “Yes, this is true. But I doubt this woman had any reason to start filming” in anticipation of this as the end result.
“Yes, that’s true,” she replied.
But here’s the thing, people.
There was no animosity between myself and this officer. There was no superiority attitude from her. No, I’m right and you’re wrong. We both just talked and listened. And this is something that sadly, in our society, is lacking.
We don’t talk. And we don’t listen.
There is simply no dialogue. Only judgement, fueled by emotion.
This female police officer and I hugged before she left the car.
My next rider was a young brother with a great smile. He told me I would be shocked by what he wants to do as a career: Become a police officer.
Nothing shocks me.
I come from a family of hard-noses. My brothers have all spent time behind bars; but one of them got lucky. He met a mentor while he was incarcerated and once they were both released, he finished his degree, and they founded an agency that helps the formerly incarcerated.
Today, in addition to his work at that agency, he works with the police department and trains officers on how to communicate with the public.
He is one bad motherf**ker. If I should say so myself.
This young brotha and I also struck up a great conversation. Mainly based on the fact that I always aim to recognize an opportunity to enlighten our youth. I care deeply for young people; and today, young brothas especially. I can’t remember all that we talked about. We went back and forth on topics such as how I liked driving Uber, the girlfriend who would be surprised that he, after being sick all week, was now well enough to pick her up from work, the state of the nation today, and finally, his desire to become a police officer.
Oh yeah. He did mention how he had a bad experience with an Asian Uber driver, who had picked him and several of his male friends up, but appeared “fearful” even though the young man had attempted to start a conversation with the man, aiming to put him out of his fearful state.
LESSON NUMBER ONE.
I made sure to tell this young man: That was very kind of you. But for the record, it is not our job as black people, to make people from other races feel comfortable about being racist. Their problem with us is exactly that: THEIR PROBLEM!
Our conversation concluded with him reaching to shake my hand. We had a great time, and I wished him well as he exited my ride.
We have all kinds of amazing opportunities to get into the heads of of our diverse human population. Why do so many of us neglect to recognize that this starts in our homes, our communities, our work and stretches out to our world? I use my work as an Uber driver as one. And though many people will choose to ignore such opportunity and continue to be fueled by emotion and hate, I hope that those who take an interest in being a part of the change they want to see, hopefully, a change that leads to a better world; one where differences are respected and no more lives are senselessly taken, will step up and use your platform — whatever it is — to set this change in motion.
This is what actor, Jesse Williams had the courage to do with his speech at the BET Awards. This is what the young singer, Selena Gomez, who recently lost her friend Christina Grimme from a fatal shooting, sings about in her new album, “Kill ‘Em With Kindness.”
This is what a multitude of people who are NOT famous are doing every day.
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