My Next Door Neighbor is African American & My Other Neighbor is a Cop.

Every day, I wake up and I watch my neighbors around me. 

For the last three months, I have enjoyed the solitude of my home office and deck and I have noticed something interesting. Kids playing. Parents parenting. And neighbors helping one another. 

My neighbor is a wonderful person who I have a very close relationship with as neighbors would.  She also happens to be African American. 

When either of us takes a trip we look out for each other and get packages off the doorstep. I once got a lizard out of her foyer for her and she turned off my oven one time when I left it on. 

Just recently I helped her with an irrigation problem from her gutter downspout. She tried to pay me and I said no, this is what neighbors do for each other. 

Behind us, a family owns a townhome and he is a local cop. He is helpful, kind and his daughter plays with her friends every day outback. I personally don’t like labeling people, as that is where problems start in that we can’t get past labels oftentimes, but for the intents of this article, the cop and his family are white. 

His daughter rides her bike, plays basketball, and interacts daily with quite a few kids, but her closest friend happens to be a boy who is half African American. His mom is white and his father is African American and the families have cookouts all the time. 

In front of my home, there is a huge open grass area where two little girls play with two little boys every day since the quarantine. They have literally torn the branches off trees climbing them, made trails with their running, and haven’t missed a day outside.  

They too, happen to be best friends and the girls are African American and the boys are white. 

This is all to say, I am very torn, confused and I don’t have many answers. I tear up writing this because I know there is hope.

I know there is racism in America, but I also know there is progress. 

I know what is portrayed in the media is always sensationalized and I also know there is an entire race of people who are hurt, misunderstood, and reeling. 

And I think we can all use a little perspective during times like these, so here goes nothing. 

Why I am Sharing:

As a blogger, I have a voice and audience that might be larger than most. 

After going back and forth the past few days, I have decided to weigh in and share just a few thoughts on the state of our country and perspective from a very logical standpoint, even during such emotional and heightened times.

It’s important to always separate emotion from logic. Emotions are ok, actions should always be accompanied by thoughtfulness. 

It’s the same reason why you don’t make decisions about your relationship in the midst of a nasty argument, you always wait until cooler heads prevail!  

Everyone has viewpoints and emotional ties one way or another, but it’s first important to recognize that one way, your way or that way – is NOT the only way! (Case in point – debt vs investing argument. Neither is wrong.. it all depends on circumstances, needs, desires, etc).  

So on the subject of George Floyd & America here is a little perspective & some fundamental facts & rights we should all consider to promote positive change:

1. Restraints

You probably don’t know this, but I am the lead restraint trainer at my school (I train & certify our staff).

What I can tell you is that restraining is a dangerous game. In fact – 120 seconds is the max time a physical restraint can be placed at the school level. They are timed because in the past restraints have injured and even killed children in schools around the country (typically behavioral centers). 

Additionally, most states prevent any ground restraints in schools. For example, we have all standing safety restraints (to protect children and others until the environment is safe). When the environment is clear, the restraint is lifted and the goal is to do this in under 60 seconds. 

After 120 seconds in addition to being on the ground – the body can go into weird forms of shock, rhabdo, and even organ failure. This number was actually figured out based on college wreslting considering they’re some of the fittest people in the world and their periods are 120 seconds. This number is also considered because most of the time, children who are restrained may have other health issues. 

POINT – Everyone now knows the science behind a physical restraint.

Nine minutes is about 7 minutes WAY TOO LONG. I have no clue as to the restraint training police receive and it is certainly different, however, there will and should be reforms & better restraint training. 

This will come up in court and experts on restraints will testify against the cop in this case who abused his restraint power and killed George Floyd. 

2. Protesting is a right. 

It’s a fundamental right to peacefully gather and protest on any public street corner in the United States. This is what makes America, America. 

When people protest so long as it does not impede the individual liberties granted to others they can protest. Whether you or whoever agrees about the protest is beside the point. You can protest whatever and whenever. If you want to protest that the sun is actually green and start a movement, you have that right. 

So don’t confuse protesting with looting. 

Protestors protest. 

Looters loot. 

Looters are simply taking advantage of a bizarre set of circumstances, but it’s not safe to group everyone standing up for what they believe in as a looter, thug, criminal, etc. 

These are different entirely. Lumping and labeling everyone together is exactly why the same racial issues keep happening. It’s why Democrats and Republicans can’t figure anything out – they can’t see past the label. 

Instead of lumping and labeling, it’s best to always find the middle ground or the 90% of things you do agree on. 

It’s a choice to disagree, just like it is a choice to agree. 

3. Find Middle Ground, focus on the middle ground! 

When I first started teaching, I was told by a colleague that out of 100 students, 10 parents will bug the crap out of you, and 10 simply won’t care. The other 80 will be perfectly normal. 

Their message to me:

“Don’t focus on the 20% that might emotionally drain you and prevent you from doing a good job with the 80% of students who need your help.” 

My point is that if you were to interview 100 people right now, chances are, at least 90 will agree on these things: 

  1. They are outraged by George Floyd’s death
  2. The cops involved should have a fair trial and justice should be served
  3. Not all cops are bads
  4. Most protesters are peaceful
  5. The new SUCKS 
  6. Looters suck 
  7. Racist people suck 

Point being, instead of focusing on the one or two fringe arguments you may or not may agree with, find middle ground. You might not agree that strawberries are better than oranges, but you can agree that fruit is healthy. 

Find the middle! 

When you disagree and argue, it drives a wedge further into the divide. Be the glue, not the wedge. (For another perspective, here is a great article – “A Brown Man's Expierence With Racism“)

4. Social Media, the News & Opinions: 

I have seen countless posts shaming or bashing one another over their beliefs or viewpoints.

Things like “If you don’t like my viewpoint you can unfriend me,” or “If you don’t like America you can leave,” could be perhaps the highest form of ignorance. 

Exploring issues, as someone who writes about human nature, social-psych, societal issues, and finances – is the fundamental key to fixing said issues. 

Telling someone they’re an idiot for posting a photo or bashing them for doing so is part of the problem, not the solution. If someone wants to remain silent, that is their right, they are allowed to remain silent. 

Social media is a beautiful disaster. On the one hand, we can collaborate, communicate, and share! On the other hand, we may say things through a computer that we would never say to someone’s face. 

Navigating social media and news right now is tough. For your sanity and emotions, it’s best to take time and step away from the noise or limit your social media use. 

I am not saying you should get off social media or shouldn’t put your views out there (like I am), all this is to say, when presented with a plate full of delicious cookies, sometimes the best action is to pause, think and then make a decision. 

Restraint is mature. 

Be mindful, think twice, and limit some of the friction in the world. Hatred does not help, kindness does. 

If you’re going to watch anything, it might be the Killer Mike speech:

5. Make a Grassroots Commitment

Those crazy enough to think they can change the world sometimes do. 

Making an impact on one person’s life can make the world a better place if everyone adopts that approach – regardless of race. 

However, that is not to say you shouldn’t find ways to help with racial issues in America. While yes the United States has come a long way since the Civil Rights movement, there is still a long way to go. 

See how you can add value in some way to a person of color, but also anyone, kindness rocks!

I have a gift when it comes to social skills and communication. I worked hard to become a great communicator, but it was also something I was born with because I was talking like an adult at age 2 my mom said. 

I also love health. 

Those two, communication and health along with finances, are some things I have helped others with. Some of which have been African-American, some Spanish, some white. 

Someone once told me I should charge people to do a budget with them or help them with their resume, but I never have. I feel like I can make an impact helping those who might not know how to operate in those areas – regardless of race. 

Ideas to make a grassroots impact include anything you’re good at or like! Ideas might be:

  • Helping others with budgets
  • Helping others with their resume/cover letter
  • Teaching people how to access self-improvement 
  • Offering health advice on nutrition or exercise 
  • Offering spiritual connections
  • Sharing books
  • Sharing positivity
  • Mentoring someone
  • Coaching sports
  • Joining clubs
  • Just listening

You don’t have to feed an entire country to be a hero, you just have to make ONE positive impact on someone’s life, and you can be a hero. 

Final Word on Racism in America

Back to my story about my neighbors. 

When I watch these kids play every day, I know there is a bright future for America. 

I have talked with my neighbor who is older and her upbringing. She told me she went to school as segregation ended, and she has told me what it was like going to an African-American only school.

My neighbor who is a cop, I watch him leave his house at 4:00 when I workout and watch his daughter say goodbye. I think about the cops hurt during the riots and those who have lost their lives and ask if we are looking for a change, do we fight injustice with more injustice?

I think about the firefighters, public services workers and communities who are currently confused and hurt. And I think about the injustice in police brutality that has occurred and continues to occur.

There is a generational shift of thinking from generation to generation, that is both good and bad. Change is good, too much change can be bad. Think of the insurgence of cell phones and how in addition to the many pros, there are many cons. 

But when it comes to fundamental societal change, like racism, there is an element of time that always plays a role. 

This doesn’t make it easier and this doesn’t excuse racism, don’t twist my words. This is to say that unfortunately there are some people who are set in their ways. But instead of focusing on them, it’s time to focus on the positive changes and outcomes. 

It's time to focus on the fact that everyday, you and I both see people of all sorts of races interacting at work, in the community and on teams. Is it perfect?

Nope.

Can it get better? Yes!

But we can and should all do our part, in whatever way we can!

Police reform is a must. 
Educational reform is a must. 
Educating those in need is a must. 
Focusing on future generations and keeping in mind they see and hear everything, is a MUST!

The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter.

– Malcolm Gladwell