It’s time we had these ‘serious conversations’ already

Robin Williams (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)

I heard that phrase we’ve all heard so many times this millennium while watching CNN’s coverage of the Michael Brown shooting Monday night.

This time, it was LZ Granderson, a CNN and ESPN contributor, who is a gay, African-American man. Because of his background, he is called on by both networks to weigh in on a slew of topics. This time, it was Brown, the 18-year-old black male who was killed in a St. Louis suburb, in the middle of the day, by a police officer.

It was during a segment, sandwiched between Robin Williams suicide coverage, that Granderson said it.

We need to have a serious conversation about why this keeps happening.

And yes, he was talking about the epidemic of unarmed black males getting harassed by the police, but he could have been talking about the other big news of the day. One of the greatest comedic minds of our time killed himself just hours before.

Or he could have been talking about the ever-rising instances of kids walking into a school and murdering their classmates and teachers. For years, we’ve been meaning to have serious conversations about all of these issues. But because we live in a me-first, no-time-for-hard-questions culture, we haven’t ever gotten around to it.

Well, it’s about time we did.

The facts about suicide are this: More people are killing themselves these days than dying in car accidents. That should be an alarming fact, because a lot of people die in car accidents. Is it because we don’t have appropriate care for the depressed, or because we’re just too busy these days to be bothered with the illnesses of others?

Teenagers have it tough these days, yes, but suicides among ages 35 to 64 rose 30 percent from 1999 to 2010. Middle-aged men are killing themselves at a far higher rate than women, but suicides in both genders are on the rise.

You might have a depressed friend and not know how to handle it. I found this video from a guy who did a really nice job of summing it up. I’d also like to add that professional help might be a better direction for a depressed friend or family member if you feel they’re going to do harm to themselves.

It’s also time we had a serious conversation about race in this country. We’re not living in a post-racial society, and that reality can be scary. But if we don’t acknowledge that, we can’t move on in this discussion.

We’re throwing a lot more people in jail these days, and nearly all of them are either black or Latino. Then, there’s the issue of authorities killing minorities.

I’m not in the communities where these cop killings happen, and I don’t know what a police officer’s daily grind is like. But I do know that if an unarmed teenager is running away from a policeman with his hands up, that’s probably not a reason to kill him.

I also know that it’s the wrong move to loot and ravage your own city as a means of making a statement. Destroying property, as we saw in Ferguson, is going to do major, long-term harm to the area’s businesses. We need to be able to tell both sides they made wrong decisions if we’re going to have a serious conversation about society’s problems.

(Side note: Seriously, St. Louis Police Department … using dogs to keep protesting black people in order? Do you have ANY idea what kind of memories that imagery provokes in the South?)

Look around your community. There are a lot of things we need to fix, and it’s not going to get better until we start facing the music and taking responsibility for what matters in our society.

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