My Hands Are Up, Don’t Shoot

The long memory is the most radical idea in this country. It is the loss of that long memory which deprives our people of that connective flow of thoughts and events that clarifies our vision, not of where we’re going, but where we want to go.” –

Bruce “Utah” Phillips, 1935 – 2008


It’s 4 a.m. and I’m wide awake in America. I went to bed early and woke in the middle of the night. For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to check my email. Just real quick and then I’ll go back to bed! Right, famous last words.

I’m not much for the oft-longed-for days of yore (usually the 1950’s midwestern USA) where men were MEN, and women cooked and cleaned all day in high heels and pincurls, and the gleaming white future stretched far away into the horizon with a peachy-keen glaze of sunshine and profit. It was a great time to be alive, as long as you were Caucasian with a penis and believed in the right God and didn’t lust after the wrong sex. A simpler time, a more authentic time!

Okay, yeah, I would have stuck my head in the oven probably shortly after birth.

However, I do sometimes wonder if certain aspects weren’t preferable. Like the inability to wake up at 4 a.m. and watch a stream of videos featuring shots being fired, cops being murdered. Peaceful protesters chanting “don’t shoot!” being interrupted by a volley of gunfire. Screaming, running, falling, panic.

All of this in the wake of two more incidents of cops murdering Black citizens. Yes, I know, one of them was daring to resist arrest. But call it what you want, I don’t care. If you have one cop kneeling on your chest and another on your arm, you probably don’t need to be shot point blank three times to keep you subdued.

As for Philando Castile, a well-dressed Black man in a car with his girlfriend and child, pulled over for a routine traffic stop, he seems to have done everything properly in the “hey I’m Black but please don’t shoot me” handbook. I personally can’t wait for the Cirque du Soleil-level contortions that people will work themselves into in order to blame him for his own brutal death.

Actually, it’s already begun. You literally can’t see the #BlackLivesMatter movement mentioned anywhere without the 3..2…1….”omg #AllLivesMatter. #WhiteLivesMatter!! Why are you making this about race??!” And my favorites so far from tonight: “But STATISTICALLY more White people are murdered. Why is this being ignored?” plus”I got pulled over one time and I did exactly what the cop said to do and I DIDN’T GET SHOT SO THERE.”

Because, you know, if Blacks would just stop being so uppity and mouthy, they wouldn’t have to die.

Additionally, that isn’t how statistics work. Blacks comprise about 13% of the US population, yet are 8 times more likely to be murdered. And last time I checked, police officers don’t get to just execute humans for not being good, scared little sheep and doing as they’re told.


In the coming days and weeks, things are only going to get uglier. The slaughter of those cops in Dallas will give the people who already didn’t care a firmer foothold for racial hatred. The insults will fly fast and furious over Facebook and other social media. Much like with the presidential election, everyone will insist on completely polarized opinions. If you’re not on my side, you’re an idiot!

The problem with this is that reality is rarely that two-dimensional. Reality is complexly multi-faceted and humans are able to hold multiple and even seemingly contradictory concepts in their minds at the same time.

Me, for instance, I think the cops were wrong. I think this country is riddled with systemic racism that most of us are in deep denial about, echos of slavery, segregation, Jim Crow laws, redlining and much more that haven’t faded away no matter how much we would like to pretend. As dear old Utah also said “The past didn’t go anywhere.” It’s kind of insane to believe that 40 or 50 years is enough to heal wounds that reached so deeply.

At the same time, I don’t believe violence solves violence. I can understand  being beaten down and silenced and cornered until you feel the need to lash out. Until you feel you must retaliate in kind if your voice is ever going to be heard. (I often feel the same way about women’s issues and gay rights, when we’re told that we should just appreciate what we’ve been given and hush up now.)

But those cops in Dallas were not the cops who need to be punished. Burning down and looting your own communities will not teach anyone anything. It not only doesn’t help, it gives your detractors another little ego boost. “Aha! SEE. Blacks are animals. They deserve what they get!”

My point here is, I can hold both of those concepts in my mind. The killing cops are wrong. The cop killers are wrong. If you feel the need to be on one side or the other, ask yourself why you believe sides even exist.

The only “side” I’m on is the one where there is something fundamentally broken in this country. We’ve forgotten how to come together and work for a common goal. We’ve forgotten that what makes -or made- this country the place where foreigners dream of living isn’t the homogenized whitebread houses all identical in a row. It’s the riotous, beautiful, seething mass of difference. It’s that we are all unique yet choose to stand together. We can be ourselves and defend the rights of others to be equally themselves without demanding that they assimilate to our own ideas.

There are no simple solutions, but I think one of the first steps on a complex path is giving up our own egos and admitting we might not be right. We might have to admit that the sides we’re on are an illusion. The illusion is what keeps us fighting. The fighting with each other is what keeps us docile and exhausted.

You want a real revolution? Put your hands up. Don’t shoot. Don’t shoot with guns OR words. Stretch your hands to the sky and try to gather in the thoughts and pain of everyone around you, listen for once instead of just reacting.

My hands are up and I am standing beside you and we can disagree without being enemies. We can disagree without anyone else dying.


5 thoughts on “My Hands Are Up, Don’t Shoot

  1. Cops killing innocent people, or not so innocent people is wrong, unless there is proof their life is at jeopardy. I’m so tired of hearing the world scream out about white cop killing black people. Black or white, it doesn’t matter, people are people, but why doesn’t the everyone get up in arms when a black or kills a white person? Just food for thought.

    • The world does very much get up in arms when blacks kill whites. For instance, today. There could not be more of an outpouring from all sides about the deaths of the police officers in Dallas at the hands of black shooters (including from the thousands of multi-racial, peaceful protesters those cops helped to protect.) And that was actually the point of my post, that both types of crime are equally unacceptable.

      I think the reason you’re hearing people scream about white cops shooting black men is because it happens with such alarming frequency. Although black men make up only 6 percent of the U.S. population, they accounted for 40 percent of the unarmed men shot to death by police as of 2015. I know it’s not fun to hear about, but it’s hard to pretend there isn’t a disparity in how different races are treated. Also, the ready availability of cellphone cameras has made it harder for incidents to be brushed under the rug.

      I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment! I need all the food for thought I can get.

  2. Ahh it’s late. But you know I am older and long winded (at times) There was once not so long ago, a police force made up entirely of ex military personnel. It is where they went for jobs after they came home. Perhaps they had been MPs, or were retired with some years they could work. The police force was different. Ask you Mom or Dad……… they knew how to deal with people through thousands of encounters they had . Now days anyone can walk into the academy, get their diploma, and they are good to go- no psych testing, no nothing. In my opinion, that shift made a difference.
    Another thing- I am seeing this more as a social issue than a color issue. Yes, it seems disproportionate at first glance, but living and have lived in a racially diverse area (no I dont mean in the city I mean neighbors) I see everyone treated like crap no matter what color you are.
    You likely dont know this, but last year I was stopped for a tail light violation. I was driving a vehicle I had bought at auction from the DNR. The 3rd taillight had been removed, and a reflector was there is all. In our state, if it is ‘issued’ with a light it had better be there. I was polite, I gave the officer all my info, I was dragged out of the vehicle and thrown to the ground. I am very much white, in fact blonde. I am older, I am what you would call absolutely no threat. BUT I have Parkinsons. I shake. When I am nervous it is more pronounced. The officer said I was on crack……… I was crying. My husband called a police supervisor. The officer had his gun drawn. I also happened to be 2 blocks from my home where the arresting officer said we were on our way ‘to buy some more stuff’. I was let go when the supervisor arrived. Had my husband not been a witness, I could have been a statistic.
    And again, the people who are killing are going after the wrong people. You can get more watchdogs who may or may not obey the rules (think cops/soldiers etc) but the people in power hide behind legislation, behind their robes, behind their veil of secrecy. The people making the laws ar who need to have their heads thumped . It starts from the top down, but no one wants to go there, it wouldnt be “PC” to do so.
    I am just tired f the stupidity, the ignorance, and the blaming of one another.
    This is the first time I have spoke out on this and will likely be the last. I know what is happening, I have cops on my street 2 or 3 times a week.

    • You aren’t long-winded, you have a lot of important things to say! I didn’t know that about the police force. I was aware that a change had definitely occurred from “Hey the police are people we trust and respect”, but I didn’t realize that was one of the causes.

      I’m completely horrified that you were treated that way. ON CRACK! My mom, who is also older, white and blonde (and travels at all times with a tiny lap dog- so you know, super threatening!) has also been treated badly by the cops. Not to the point of being thrown to the ground though.

      I feel like that’s an excellent point, and one I never even get around to in conversations like this because everyone is so focused on arguing whether race is a factor or if these men somehow deserved it. You know I live in a pretty low-income area of Appalachia. Considering the small population, the amount of drug use, drug trafficking, violence and even murder is just as bad as any inner city I’ve ever seen. Our number one export is drugs. Our number one import is drugs. And the racial makeup is almost exclusively white, plus a small community of mostly Mexican field workers. THE COPS ARE NOT OUR FRIENDS.

      It’s almost laughable the lengths people will go to not to call the cops for any reason, because what is the most surefire way to make an already bad situation worse? Yep, have a cop show up. It’s something that’s been instilled in everyone I know from a young age. If you see a police officer, you bow and scrape with politeness and you lie through your fucking teeth.

      It seems awful to feel this way, because I know not all cops are this bad. I know some truly want to serve and protect. It just hasn’t ever been so in the realm of my personal experience. So you’re right, I don’t think it’s purely racial at all.

      I do have a hard time getting away from the sheer lopsided numbers of unarmed blacks who are killed by cops vs any other race, and studies I’ve seen on why blacks seemingly commit more crimes. It turns out that they don’t. In tests where given for instance ten people on the street, all of them holding weed, even cops who do not believe they are racist in any way will overwhelmingly choose to stop and frisk the one black male. Basically they are disproportionately arrested for and charged with crimes that others might skate by with. (But, again, the same bias is held against poor people or those hanging out in the “wrong” neighborhoods. Hell, there’s been a serial killer operating in a city close to me for over a year now, but because he only takes strippers and other chicks no one cares about, they’re basically pretending it isn’t even happening.)

      It does start from the top down! When our choices for president (OUT OF MILLIONS) are a corrupt Wall Street puppet and an Oompaloompa, it should be obvious that there is something very wrong going on here. And all of us little ants down here on the ground need to be good workers and tighten our belts and put up with non-existent healthcare and save the environment and be quiet, be quiet, be quiet while the fat cats who make all the rules don’t feel the need to follow any of them.

      I’m so glad you shared your story. I don’t know how to change things, but I do know nothing will ever change if we are silent, if we don’t speak out about our experiences and say THIS is unacceptable.

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