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How Storytelling Helps Cure Racism

“Whaaaaaat?”

I literally said it out loud to no one in my car as I listened to the report of that traffic stop gone fatally awry. As I sat in my own car on a sunny morning with little fear of being pulled over, I couldn’t really even understand what I was hearing. I mean, so, the guy was just getting out his license and registration? Isn’t that what he’s supposed to do? How could that seem threatening enough to shoot him? I don’t get it.

They played the sound bite of Philando Castile’s girlfriend as she documented the entire stop on Facebook live. From what I could hear — though it was nearly impossible to leave the radio dial there — the officer was unreasonable, and there was no need for gunshots, much less a killshot.

I nodded as the morning host said that regardless of race or skin or sides — the fact of the matter is there’s another life gone. People — lives — matter.

This happened just one day after the death of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the details of which were less cut-and-dry than a simple traffic stop.

Later that same day, I read a post on my newsfeed bemoaning the ignorance of the #AllLivesMatter movement. So many opinions.

Friday morning, I woke — literally still in bed — to more lives gone at the hands of hate. In Dallas, five more souls were taken in a brash, selfish, hate-driven, reactionary act.

I don’t care what your skin color is, how you vote or which bathroom you use. Life is life. Murder is wrong. And I will stand by that statement whether you’re white, black, gay, straight, rich, poor or anything else.

Black Lives Matter

It’s true we still haven’t figured out how to play nice because of something as silly as the amount of pigment in our skin. (In fact, our skin color amounts to less than 1% of a difference between all of us. Less than 1%!) We have problems with racism — from both sides of the skin barrier — left over from decades-old, blatant prejudice. We cannot, and should not, ignore that.

We have work to do.

Even political leaders see the problem in our behavior. Some aren’t given the same benefit of the doubt that others are, or they are written off because of something as irrelevant as skin color.

That’s where we must say lives matter. Lives matter not because they’re black lives or white lives or blue lives. Black lives do matter. But it must go beyond a simple statement; we must live it, too. Which means not jumping to conclusions, thinking we know a person by their skin.

Lives matter because they’re lives.

Souls and Stories

The body count has been more diverse than we’d all like to admit, making it clear one group of people is not better or worse than the other. The fact of the matter is we all harbor bad stuff. Like, really bad stuff. It doesn’t matter where we came from or what we look like. We are naturally selfish, and our human nature is always self-seeking, whether that is for pride or revenge or both. We — all of us — have a bent toward sin. We have a pride in our hearts that always wants vindication.

We are not perfect, and we never will be.

But.

We always have an opportunity to do what is right. We — all of us — have an opportunity to stop fighting. To choose kind words and actions instead of words and actions driven by hate. To stand with each other, hand-in-hand, heart-to-heart.

Because behind our cultures, our paychecks, our prejudices, are our stories. Because underneath the clothes and the skin and the actions are souls. Human souls. Life.

Because all lifeblood runs red. Not black. Not white. Not gay. Not straight. Not rich. Not poor.

Red.

And once you hear the story behind the bars or behind the badge, you begin to see the soul. And the barriers — of race, of gender, of socioeconomics, of political affiliations, of religion, of pasts, of futures, of fears — all come tumbling down.

Shattered.

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