A Spark of Hope – Amanda Green
I’m probably going to get into trouble for this but I don’t care. You see, something happened Thursday night of last week that made me stop and think. Yes, I know. It can be dangerous for me to think. That’s when those non-approved thoughts happen and I forget to walk in lock-step with those who are so willing to tell me what to think and what to do. Well, screw ‘em. Thursday night showed me there is at least a glimmer of hope for our country and I’m going to cling to it, reminding myself that what we see and hear from the main stream media isn’t what mainstream America thinks.
For those who don’t know me, I live in North Central Texas, right smack dab between Dallas and Fort Worth. For some, this is the beginning of “the West”. For those of us who live here, it is the difference between fast-paced Dallas (although nothing like NYC) and a slower-paced Fort Worth. We have many of the same problems of any major metropolitan area. We have our fair share of poor schools, gang-related issues, drugs, crime, and poverty. You name it and you can find it. Maybe not in the same numbers of say, Detroit or Cleveland, but it is there.
Like too many places of late, we’ve had our own instances of white cops killing black youths. The last time that happened was less than two weeks ago. Late one night, 19 year old Christian Taylor, a young man who had so much promise ahead of him, broke into a car dealership in Dallas. Security video showed him jumping on top of cars, denting hoods and breaking windshields. When Arlington police arrived, they found him inside the dealership building – Taylor had driven his car through the glass wall to gain access. And, unfortunately, events played out in such a way that this young man lost his life. A rookie cop made access to the building, separating himself from his training officer and Taylor was shot and killed.
When the story first hit the media, there was no doubt the media was playing up the angle that we have seen all too often, that of a cop too eager to kill a black youth. A “copy” of the radio log was leaked to the media showing only two seconds elapsed from the time the cop confronted Taylor to when he killed him. The only problem happened to be that the “copy” turned out to be a heavily edited copy and that two minutes elapsed instead of two seconds.
Now, this piece isn’t about whether or not the cop in question was right or wrong in what he did. In my mind, mistakes were made on both sides. Taylor never should have been at the dealership and he sure as hell shouldn’t have driven his car through the glass to gain entry. He shouldn’t have run when the cops arrived and ordered him to halt. But the rookie cop made mistakes too. He shouldn’t have made entry into the building without first securing the scene. He should have waited for back up. His training officer should have had better control over his actions. I won’t speculate on whether he should have deployed his Taser, as his training officer apparently did, instead of his weapon because I haven’t heard all of the tape nor seen the video. All I know is a young man lost his life and a cop is now without a job. This was a tragedy no matter how you look at it.
So what does this have to do with what happened Thursday night, you ask. Very simple. No matter what the media tried to do with this story, no matter how they tried to stir the pot of discontent, it failed. And believe me, the media did its best to make this story into much more than it is. Not just locally but on a national level. In fact, the national media was the worst about trying to stir up trouble. I heard media mavens trying to draw a parallel between what happened in Arlington to what happened in Ferguson. I stopped counting the number of times the national media led the story off with some version of “There’s been another black youth killed by a white cop”. When it became clear the “copy” of the radio log had been heavily edited, national media was all but silent on it. After all, it didn’t fit the picture they wanted to paint.
Fortunately, the Arlington Police Department is active on social media and learned about this leaked “copy” very early on. It didn’t take APD long to release the entire log, showing that things didn’t quite play out the way the media was portraying it. Even more fortunately, Taylor’s family, while grieving and having more questions that any parent or family member should have about a loved one’s death, called for calm. They didn’t fall into the trap the MSM tried to set for everyone involved. They have been class acts through this all, mourning Taylor and asking for answers but also asking for calm from all sides. My heart and my prayers go out to these people and I hope they get the answers they want and they deserve without much more delay.
So that is the basic background for what happened Thursday night.
That night, I went into Dallas to see Motown – the Musical with my mother and a friend. I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, so the thought of spending an evening enjoying the music of that era thrilled me. I also expected that the crowd for the show would be a bit different, not because of the fact it was Motown but because we were going on a night of the run that we don’t usually go to. This was one of the last shows instead of early into the run.
The audience was filled, something I was thrilled to see with school starting soon. The people attending were a bit older than usual, on average. Again, not surprising because this was one of those musicals that called out to the fans of Motown and let’s face it, Motown was at its most popular in the 60’s and 70’s.
I hadn’t seen Motown – the Musical before. All I knew was that it would have some great music and would tell the history of Motown Records. From the reviews, I expected plot to be sparse. I didn’t care. I was going for the music. So imagine my surprise when the plot (yes, it was less developed than most musicals but it was most definitely there) followed historic events. John Kennedy’s assassination was shown, as were the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. Nor was the language of the times sanitized.
I’ll repeat that. The language of the times was not sanitized.
There are times during the musical when various people ask Barry Gordy, Jr., founder of Motown Records, why his sales force is all white. Initially, there is no answer. Then, as the world begins changing during the upheaval of Vietnam and Flower Power, and all the other movements of the 60’s and 70’s, he asks his sales manager the same question. In a subsequent scene, a promoter from down South calls the Motown sales manager and is all but beside himself with anger and disbelief. He wants to know why the sales manager sent a “g** damned n***er” down there. The sales manager, as white as the driven snow, doesn’t miss a beat. He asks the other guy how much money he makes off of Motown records. Then he says that if he wants to keep making that money, he’d better get used to seeing that “g** damned n***er” down there.
When that happened, you could see the audience reaction. You saw a number of folks, mainly white, holding their breaths. After all, we’ve learned, often the hard way, that you just don’t use the N-word. Some of us have been on the end of the lectures that it is all right for blacks to call one another that word but it is never to pass our lips. We shouldn’t even think it. So to hear it on stage, and so soon after Christian Taylor being shot by a white cop, there were those in the audience waiting for the shoe to drop.
It didn’t. I didn’t see or hear one angry mutter, one angry reaction from anyone in the audience. The very nice African-American woman sitting next to me, simply nodded sagely and commented to her companion that she was so glad things had changed for the better. She remembered those days. Things might not be perfect now but they were so much better than they had been and that was what we all needed to remember.
That seemed to be the reaction of everyone in the audience. I wondered at it and then realized that I had fallen into the trap that MSM had set. It had done its best to foment discord between the races that we now expect trouble. Worse, we expect it at the drop of a hat. Fortunately, that hat did not drop Thursday night and I got to see that there is hope that it won’t drop, at least not for long.
You see, those men and women in the audience, be they black or white, knew something that the media and those social activists who go into communities they have no ties with and who serve only to stir the pot of trouble did not. They knew that, while there is still a ways to go in this country to rid it of foolish prejudices (on all sides), we have come a long way. They knew that you don’t move forward if you resort to violence as your first choice. They have been there. They know it is better to build bridges than it is to blow them up and then trek figurative miles to find another way across the chasm of prejudice and distrust.
For three hours Thursday night, several hundred people of all ages came together to remember times much worse than today and to celebrate the fact that we have come so far. We celebrated the victories. We mourned the loss of men and women who had a dream and did their best to follow it. We ignored the media that would have had us at eachother’s throats simply because of a single word.
In short, we proved the media is not nearly as powerful as it would have us believe and, for that, I am most grateful.
So here’s the final point. As the Christian Taylor case showed, the media is quick to release and comment on anything that serves the cause du jour. It doesn’t do the fact checking it should. It doesn’t issue the qualifiers it should when it gets information from unconfirmed sources. So, instead of jumping to conclusions – either to immediately agree with what the media says or to immediately disagree with it – find that grain of salt and apply it.
Most of all, remember that there is still hope for this country. It might not be as big as any of us would like but as long as that glimmer is there, I will continue fighting to grow it from a spark to a flame. Will you?