I little while ago I talked about one of the things I think we should all do, know your neighbors. I think it might be necessary to add a qualifying statment to that: that we need to meet, know and build relationships with people that our different then us (and I don’t just mean different gender). Get to know people who differ in their political views, their religious background, their culture, ethnicity, race. There are obvious reasons for this, it shouldn’t take too much convincing. However, the reason it’s been on my mind lately as because of some recent tragic stories I’ve come across.
The first happened in my own neighborhood. A SWAT Team entered a house on a ‘no-knock’ raid based on information that a gang member lived there.
But minutes after a SWAT team entered the house about 12:30 a.m., things went awry. The homeowner, a father of six, thinking the intruders were burglars, fired at them through a bedroom wall. He hit two officers, one in the back and one in the head, but both were uninjured because they were wearing protective armor. Police shot back, but did not hit him.
The tragedy: The police had the wrong house.
As an aside, this is one reason I believe firmly that we need to address the disparities in the police force (less then 20% of the police in Minneapolis are people of color). The real tragedy to me is that we don’t really know our neighbors. When that happens, police end up following individual obscure tips and endangering a family (they weren’t even the same ethnicity as the person they where looking for). The story becomes only more disturbing when those police where recently awarded for their bravery in the situation.
The second story is even more tragic.
Just hours before he was savagely attacked by a pack of thugs here, a Toronto man had complained to police he was being harassed and accused of being a rapist.
When a 17-year-old girl later confronted him on a downtown street and made similar allegations, the man was attacked by as many as six youths and young men who stabbed him twice in the chest, once in the back, hit him with a piece of lumber and, according to a witness, “beat the crap out of him.”
The 42-year-old Toronto man is black. His attackers are white.
But Deputy Chief Bill Sornberger of Owen Sound police said the Wednesday night attack wasn’t racially motivated.
“He was absolutely innocent, simply in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Sornberger told the Star. “He was a victim of mistaken identity.”
Again, there are many facts about the story that are disturbing, but the tragedy to me again is that we don’t know each other. Stereotypes, racism, injustice, profiling, and more, I believe are all perpetuated in large part because we are unwilling or apathetic to meeting our neighbors.