As a resident of Saint Louis, I have been shocked and appalled by the level of racism I’ve seen in this region. From people referring to “those people” talking about Jews to fear about traveling to perfectly safe areas of the city. The fear expressed by people of going into the city and interacting with African Americans was something I haven’t experienced in my lifetime even though I grew up in the rural South. This doesn’t even touch on the highly-segregated neighborhoods and churches.
Saint Louis has the potential to be one of the best cities in the country in which to live. It has nationally recognized universities, state of the art healthcare facilities, good transportation, excellent food, museums, parks, and affordable entertainment. Yet, we are rapidly being known for civil unrest rather than what should be the focus, civil rights, equality, and a new approach to law enforcement.
How we define civil unrest, how we define law enforcement, and how we define our personal roles and responsibilities impacts how we prepare and the seriousness with which we prepare. Civil unrest is “disharmony, expressive dissatisfaction and/or disagreement between members of a community, which leads to a situation of competitive aggression that may find expression as disruption of organization, conflicts, damage to property and injuries” (Kelen, Catlett, Kubit, & Hsieh, 2012). I must ask myself
- What have I done to create a more harmonious environment?
- What have I done to de-escalate potentially violent situations?
- What have I done to recognize and confront racism?
The level of civil unrest in the United States had been relatively consistent until the 1960s when there was a significant increase with the onset of the Vietnam War. After the end of the war, the civil unrest declined but has been steadily increasing since 1980 (see Table 1).
Civil Unrest in the United States
Adapted from Armstrong Economics and Wikipedia Contributors.
In the last few years, almost all the civil unrest in the United States has been related to police shootings of black males. I will never know what it feels like to be a black man that fears the police or a police officer that fears black men. I have never felt called to be a police officer, but respect those that are and can only pray that they exercise good judgment, self-restraint, and patience during times of civil unrest. It is not disloyal for an officer to recognize when a fellow officer failed the badge. I wonder what would happen if rather than standing in riot gear you all joined hands in prayer with the protestors and acknowledged their pain.
I am called to be a nurse and as such, I want all nurses to be prepared during times of civil unrest. I want you to also show good judgment, self-restraint, and compassion when discussing these issues at work. Many of those you work with have different experiences and may live in areas that are impacted. Be their strength. Be the kindness they need. Listen with their ears.
Please take the time to read Nurse Leaders’ Response to Civil Unrest in the Urban Core and let’s do all we can for our city and its citizens.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God. Mt 5:9