Have you ever denied the sincere request of a small child? Fairly soon thereafter, you probably heard him or her say in confusion, “But I said ‘please’.” And then, you had to explain to that developing, young mind that you don’t get extra credit for doing what you’re supposed to do. That’s just a part of life here on planet Earth.
Having grown up as an African-American male in America, I often scrutinize our collective history; past and recent. It seems that there has always been a concerted effort to deprive us of things that should never have been denied in any logical sense. And once there is any progress at all toward gaining or regaining said footholds, we, collectively, are to feel . . . grateful? Be it freedom from slavery or the grips of Jim Crow . . . or gaining the right to vote . . . or striving for the right to keep breathing after a “routine” traffic stop . . . there has been — and still remains — a lot to overcome. And, be it through marches, gatherings, legislation, documentaries, or my writing these very words . . . it seems an accepted thing that people of color are constantly asking for — actively seeking — things that should already have been ours ages ago. I have even heard it stated more than once that we are “always asking for something”.
I was recently sitting in the office of the Superintendent of my last job, listening to him explain to me how I should be grateful that he had chosen not to take disciplinary action against me for missing work, due to legitimate illnesses . . . with all the necessary documentation. He was telling me how I owed “The Institution” something. I could only sit there thinking: “Well, thanks, Easter Bunny, for doing what the Hell you’re supposed to do”. That was the day that I resigned, as opposed to being bullied into something that was detrimental to my health and well-being. But why should I have been grateful for receiving what I was due? I didn’t even have some of those medical conditions prior to the wear-and-tear of working at the prison for so many years.
Likewise, I’ve written previously about working as a civilian in a Georgia police department. My Sergeant at that time would become visibly upset whenever I handed him the paperwork for the civilian holidays to which I — and every civilian employee — was entitled. Again, I wasn’t asking for anything extra, it was just a formality to give him paperwork for days that were already mine. To this day, I have no idea why it even bothered him so much. What bothers me is yet another example of my having to humbly request something that was, technically, already mine anyway. And putting up with unwarranted, disrespectful attitudes in the process is never a welcome addition.
I can recall a particular call, during my time with that department. I had been dispatched to a burglary at a lower income, Hispanic household. My Spanish has always been basic, but a neighbor volunteered to translate for me, which was a major blessing. However, my point is what she said to me as I was leaving. She thanked me for being respectful and listening to them. Now, with no frame of reference for her previous experiences, all that I could do was assure her that it had been no problem. But, the only reason that day still resonates with me, is because she felt the need to thank me for treating them like everyone should have treated them; like people. Her sincere gratitude was almost saddening.
But it speaks to where we are as humans. We repeat so much history because no one has paid enough attention to learn anything from it. We are still demonstrating and protesting for the same things, often in the same ways. And many of those who aren’t standing in direct opposition . . . are just missing the point. As a wise man once said, “Justice too long delayed is justice denied”. Be blessed . . .