By McKayla Petrie, former Alexandria, MN resident now living in West Palm Beach, FL
I’ve come across a previous letter to the editor that was sent in, and I’ve allowed myself some time to reflect.
So many people are calling for parents or caregivers to teach their children respect, but are only seeing respect from the eyes of a localized, dominantly white point of view. This damaging perception is neglecting to showcase the extremely saddening and vulnerable lessons that BIPOC are raised to understand and live through.
Growing up in the Alexandria community, I was never really exposed to much diversity besides traveling with my family. By a young age, I had seen over half of the country, met hundreds of individuals from all walks of life, and fell in love with learning more about others. When I moved for college, I experienced a culture shock I had never thought about. Immersed in the lives of others, I’ve allowed myself to gain knowledge, compassion, and drive to support the very people I’ve come to love and appreciate.
I’ve been in the car with a black man being pulled over for a routine traffic stop. I watched this young man tense up, throw his hands on the dashboard and zip his own mouth shut. I watched him close his eyes in fear of what was about to happen. Not one, but two officers approached the vehicle. One female, on the passenger side of the vehicle in which I was sitting, and a male officer approached the driver’s side. The young man was told countless times to be quiet, stop talking back, and keep still. I was told absolutely nothing. In fact, the female officer asked why I was in the car.
Why was I in the car? Why was I in this car, specifically, or why was I in a car period? Why was I in the car with a black man?
There have been countless experiences similar to this one, all in which I have watched the fear and sadness escape from a strong young man or woman’s face due to the profiling, stereotyping, or targeting at the expense of their own life.
It’s easy to say that all people need to do to survive is to respect authorities. However, the same people that see giving this respect as easy and natural are the same individuals who are not targeted, stereotyped, and harassed due to their race. These same individuals have never had the life sucked out of them in fear of how they’re going to be treated in a traffic stop, grocery store, or estate sale. If it is simply about respect, shouldn’t it be a two way street?
Justice has prevailed? No. More lives have been lost and people are being held to the bare minimum of accountability. There needs to be change, and it is more than just parents raising their children to respect authorities.
There are systems, communities, and people that continue to disrespect individuals solely because of their skin color and culture. It’s time to demand respect and human decency for all.
It’s time to get out of the small town mindset that so many have, immerse yourself in knowledge and experiences, and grow in compassion and acceptance.
I was raised to respect, but I was raised to respect ALL -- not just authorities. That’s how it needs to be.