Home, sweet home

From the Mound

On Friday, my wife and I celebrated our fifth year in our home. We moved into that home when we were in our first year of marriage.

In five short years, we have brought three dogs into that home. We have had a dozen foster children spend at least one night in our home, and we have been blessed to adopt four of them.

In the midst of the turmoil of the last two weeks, I’ve been contacting some of my good friends from college that still reside in the Minneapolis area.

Specifically, I had a long talk with a good friend, a man I met when we were both attempting to walk on for the University of Minnesota football team.

At the time, we both were similar in size, standing between 6’2” and 6’4” depending on how a coach wanted to tilt our actual height of just a hair more than six feet and two inches. We were both smallish linemen, weighing in at 260 to 275 pounds when we were attempting to walk on.

Matt and I actually came from very similar backgrounds; both coming from farm families of strong faith and multiple brothers.

The big divergence between us was a significant difference in our levels of melanin. Well, my lack of it in comparison to Matt, that is.

Of course, there was also the issue of Matt liking to rush at a quarterback and remove his helmet - while it was attached - while I snapped the ball to said quarterback and tried to keep his helmet upon his head.

We’ve kept in touch through MySpace, then Facebook, and now Twitter and Instagram. When football was over for me, I got notably larger. Somehow, he lost 50 pounds.

Matt opened a construction business soon after college and bought his first home with his bride, his high school sweetheart, who he married a month after both graduated from college. He has added to his home and remodeled over the years, adding value to not just his own home, but to his entire neighborhood as he added value to a fixer-upper property.

We discussed systemic racism, and I listened to Matt relay stories for two-plus hours. The stories were incredible, but one, in particular, caught my attention.

Matt and his wife moved into their home over a weekend a few years into their marriage and then left for a vacation. This rang similar for me, as my wife and I moved into our home days before heading on our honeymoon.

The situations upon return could not have been more different.

My neighbors had trimmed bushes and left some notes of welcome in our mailbox when we returned. Matt had the cops called on him.

He was a black man, entering a home, and fidgeting to make the key work. It was assumed he was breaking in.

He spent the next two hours attempting to get anyone on the phone who could verify that he was, in fact, the new owner of the home. Better put, Matt sat in handcuffs in the back of a police cruiser while his wife did the calling.

Two hours.

In handcuffs.

For attempting to enter his own home.

I know the police in Huron. I cannot fathom being questioned for more than a moment about the home I had just purchased if such a call came through.
However, that’s exactly the privilege that so many are trying to explain. That as someone who is not black, I will never truly understand, even with such a similar background to my friend.

In the end, after two hours, the officers decided to use the couples’ keys to open the doors to the home.

They found it difficult to use them to unlock the deadbolt, which was why Matt had struggled to open the door initially, prompting a call from one of his new neighbors.

There has certainly been a significant number of messages posted on social media over recent days, but one has struck a particular chord with me.

It reads: “When you look at what is going on and say ‘It’s horrible that a black person was killed, but destroying property has to stop!’ perhaps instead you need to try saying “It’s horrible that property is being destroyed, but killing innocent black men and women has to stop!’

Priorities matter.”

We’ve been in our house for five years, but it’s the dogs, the children, and the love we’ve shared with family and friends in that house that has made it a home.

The CEO of Target has said that destroyed stores will be rebuilt, but that he supported the protesters. Millions of dollars have been given, much of it by those involved in protests, toward rebuilding Lake Street in Minneapolis. Property can be rebuilt. A human life cannot.

Martin Luther King, Jr. wasn’t nearly as widely approved in 1964 as he is now. Today’s protests over recent deaths in the black community are a way for the African-American community to attempt to create a “home” in the American part of that descriptor.

It’s time to listen to the protesters genuinely and truly hear their words.