POC = people of color
LEO = law enforcement officer
I didn’t sleep at all on Monday night.
My husband is a law enforcement officer. On the most violent night of the DC protests, I waited until midnight for him to come home, had nightmares until 3AM and then went to work at 6AM. I’m sure many people of color had the same quality of sleep as they waited for their loved ones to come home.
I grew up in a small liberal town in Massachusetts. I had a liberal education, come from a very democratic family, and cried when my husband said he was becoming a police officer. They were not happy tears.
We had been dating for about a year at the time. When he told me he was going into the police academy, I burst into tears just outside of the American University Subway. Everything that I thought I knew about police officers popped into my head. At that point in time, I believed that they were ill-educated overly-aggressive jugheads on a power trip who couldn’t get a real job. And then five years later, as of May 17th, 2020, I married one.
I have the utmost respect and admiration for the majority of police officers. To every single LEO that took a knee in Germantown and to the one who attempted to take a knee in D.C., I want to offer a heartfelt thank you. Taking a knee means that they put themselves in one of the most vulnerable positions in the middle of a crowd of people. This goes against all of their training (for right or wrong). I’m grateful for all the peaceful protestors out there who repaid their trust with cheers and not bricks.
My liberal background combined with my choice of husband has left me feeling trapped and unable to express my horror at the death of George Floyd and the death of retired St. Louis police captain, David Dorn. How do I express that I support Black Lives Matter without friends and family coming to the conclusion that I hate cops? How do I express that I support my husband without friends and family believing I do not support justice?
It was when I was reading back through my own website, that I knew I had to say something. I am an equine marketer who believes in Authenticity. How can I be authentic when I am hiding my beliefs in this pivotal moment in history?
I see so many equestrian brands capitalizing on the horrors of this moment in time to further their business. #BLM has become the latest buzzword in a corporate world of marketing strategy. “Want to increase your online engagement and drive traffic to your website? All you have to do is comment on George Floyd’s death in some vague way and you’re set to go.”
So I am faced with another obstacle. How do I say what I want to say and remain authentic without capitalizing on tragedy? You’ll see this post shared to my personal social media pages, and it will be hosted on my website, but Golden Fleece Farm will overall stay silent on this issue, out of respect. It is not my intention to use this post to increase my business, only as a cathartic way to speak my mind.
I am a privileged white woman. I chose to marry a law enforcement officer. I had a privileged upbringing with two amazing parents, great siblings, a horse, and a nearly full-time competitive riding career. Now, I own a house, two ex-racehorses, and run my own business. I understand that for many reasons this is not possible for many people my age, not to mention millennials in the POC community. Who am I to say that I understand the hundreds of years of slavery and fight for rights that follows the history of people of color everywhere?
I cannot know your pain, but I feel your worries, anxiety, and fear.
Everyday when my husband leaves for work, my heart beats a little faster and my brain drifts to him every other second. Will this be the traffic stop where a bullet travels through his vest? Where someone takes him by surprise? Where he is executed by the side of the road?
It’s at these moments that I think of the mothers and wives of black men and boys. When their loved ones leave the house, I imagine that I am sharing in their emotions. Will this be the day my son is pulled over by an aggressive cop? Will it be the day my father is pinned to the ground with a knee on his neck? Is this the day my husband will speak the words, “I can’t breathe?”
While the core emotions are the same, I know that the history of our situations are not. I do not in any way, shape, or form, want my readers to believe that I am reducing the systemic oppression of slavery that occurred over hundreds of years in order to compare it to my fear when my husband puts on his uniform and leaves for work everyday. But I do know that fear is fear. And my fears and your fears, and my love and your love, may hopefully one day unify our country.
At 9:25pm in Minneapolis, George Floyd was pronounced dead after a police officer pinned him to the ground and held a knee to Floyd’s neck for nine minutes. At the same time (adjusted for time zones) in Maryland, I was on the phone with my husband who was on his way home from work. I could hear his radio crackle to life in the background and then there were hurried “I love you”s and a “be safe” from me before hanging up.
At the same moment George Floyd died, my husband was pulling a man from a vehicle. The vehicle was on fire and the man had slit his own throat, before crashing the car. He fought my husband and an off-duty DC police officer tooth and nail as they pulled him out. He would rather stay in the car and burn to death than live. He had just escaped from a nearby hospital after attempting suicide earlier that week.
As George Floyd was choking on a knee and fighting to survive, my husband was choking on toxic smoke and fighting to save a life. I can only imagine the horrors of both situations.
Because of the actions of my husband and the other officer, the man lived. Because of the actions of Derek Chauvin, a man died.
This is not a “Not All Cops” post. This one incident does not erase the past murders of black people by law enforcement officers (obviously). But it does serve as a sobering reminder of the trauma that law enforcement officers face every time they walk out the door. The ghosts of these tragic situations hover over the families of LEOs, as the deaths of George Floyd and others must hover over the families of POC.
To black families everywhere, I just want to say: the world would be so much easier if I could feel what you feel and you could feel what I feel. And then, maybe, we could find unity. While our country is currently divided on either side of a very messy line, I believe that both sides are faced with the same thought. Will my loved one come home today?
Out of Hope, I believe that Black Lives Matter.
Out of Fear, I ask the world to please keep my husband safe.