Hey, America! Isn't it about time that you take some personal responsibility for your actions? Well, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson absolutely does!
As he lamented a real "lack of dialogue" in this country to the Republican Party of SLO County on July 6, he lauded the real conservative value of personal responsibility—which he said was completely lacking in certain segments of the community (more specifically: criminals and Black Lives Matter protesters)—and tsk-tsked the struggle bus our country is on at the moment.
"It makes it very hard," he whined about members of law enforcement being called racist. "I have the benefit of taking off the uniform ... I truly don't understand it."
Oh boy. So let's break that down for a bit, shall we. He's mad that law enforcement has a bad rap right now and people are trying to break down the systemic racism that literally built the justice system in our country. Someone needs to take personal responsibility for all of the unarmed people who die at the hands of law enforcement every year. I don't see that happening anytime soon!
He's upset that people aren't willing to talk about it. Yeah, me too, man. Public conversations are so important! That's how change happens.
But then, the YouTube video that someone posted of his meandering diatribe was made private. That way only people who basically agree with him can view it.
A real lack of dialogue in our community, huh? Oh wait! I get it! Dialogue is only supposed to happen if it correlates strongly with one's own opinions! Then nothing changes, and people like Sheriff Parkinson get to stay in power. Oh! I totally get it now.
Also. Parkinson seems to be adamant that he can take off his uniform. Umm, duh? Won't you then be naked in your bare white skin? What he doesn't seem to get is the fact that people can't take their skin off. Black, brown, white, or other. What you've got is what you get.
And it's not a real surprise that he doesn't understand how other people feel or what their life experiences are and how it shapes their worldview. That seems to be something no one in American understands right now!
"Here in San Luis Obispo, we're being trashed by this issue of something that is truly not here in that form," he explained to the Republicans who truly believe exactly what he is saying.
Oh, but dearest Parkinson, racism absolutely exists here. It exists in the racial slurs of the unhappy customer yelling at the Black store manager as he got into the Pro-Cleaners Chimney and Carpet Cleaning van in Atascadero. It exists in the people who yell racial slurs at protesters who support the Black Lives Matter movement. It exists in the blackface that Cal Poly students "obliviously" sport to parties. It exists in the racist graffiti tagged at Grover Beach Elementary School.
And if all of that racism is alive and well in the SLO County community, then how can you believe that it doesn't exist within the ranks of county law enforcement. Ignoring it and choosing not to see it is the single biggest issue.
Because it also exists in you mentioning that white protesters are the ones yelling at law enforcement in SLO County. There are Black people at those protests, too, and they are also screaming to be heard by law enforcement. They have been the ones organizing these protests we've had. And you clearly haven't heard them. Not only have you not heard them, you make it sound like they don't exist here.
And they do exist.
They exist like racism exists.
And the dialogue you lament the loss of is actually happening.
It's happening right now, as this community discusses the recent protest that culminated with the arrest of organizer Tianna Arata. A car window was busted over the head of a 4-year-old child. A protester was run over by the same car. The way we view that situation and who's at fault depends on our worldview and the people we choose to discuss it with.
The protest was disruptive and loud, which is exactly what protests are meant to be. It was full of anger, but it was also full of joy. It was conflicted, like we are conflicted. And it was partly a response to that 20-minute speech that Parkinson made to the Republican Party of SLO.
That is dialogue. Callout and response. Callout and response.
And boy, doesn't it suck to be called out for something you said?
Unfortunately, most of our dialogue is happening on Instagram feeds and Facebook posts. It's happening in the echo chambers we love to revel in—those reassuring places where we hear only the words we want to hear: Your opinion is the right opinion. Their opinion is wrong. Don't listen.
Those are the places where what you believe about a situation will become fact—whether it is actually a fact or not. And fact at the moment is a tricky thing. Because fact is now part of our belief system. We see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear.
Dialogue actually involves engaging with the other side and doing this little thing called listening. Δ
The Shredder lives on the struggle bus. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.