What the Dallas shootings taught me about the privilege of safety

I took this photo Thursday night around 11:30. The cluster of lights beneath the Bank of America building (the one lined in green emerald lights) are police cars blocking access to the standoff.

I took this photo Thursday night around 11:30. The cluster of lights beneath the Bank of America building (the one lined in green emerald lights) are police cars blocking access to the standoff.

My apartment was .7 miles from the Dallas shootings. After seeing Jim Gaffigan perform downtown Thursday night, my fiancé Lee and I drove the long way home in order to avoid the streets that were closed down during the standoff. We hugged one another and said good night around 11:15 p.m. Twenty minutes later, I looked down and had two missed calls from him and text messages that said:

"I'm coming to get you and Georgia. There's been a bomb threat on downtown Dallas."

I quickly packed a bag, grabbed my dog and headed downstairs to meet Lee and stay with him for the night. For the next several days he and I both felt like we were in a fog -- unable to focus on work or do much more than eat and listen to the news stations. Since that night, we've been alerted by friends in the Dallas police department about more dangerous situations: downtown restaurants being targeted; possible threats that CNN isn't allowed to air for the sake of the officer's safety, etc. 

I keep saying this, and it's true: I'm heart broken. I'm so incredibly raw and tender and the feeling of vulnerability isn't going away. I've been paying attention to the narratives in my mind, the unwelcome phrases that keep echoing:

Is the shooter coming to my home next?

Did the shooter put the bomb in my parking garage?

Is that helicopter monitoring another standoff?

Is that police car coming to my apartment?

Am I safe outside?

In the last several days I've realized something: extraordinary privilege and good fortune have been my near-constant companions. I have never in my life felt a true, unrelenting threat to my body or home. Sure, I've felt uncomfortable at a bar or on a date -- but I had all the resources to remove myself from the situation to get to a place of safety with relative ease. Never in my life have I felt like the victim of a swirling set of circumstances that were completely and utterly out of my reach to improve. I have always, always, always been able to find a way to reach safety.

The response in our hearts

The privilege of safety became very real this week. When we were driving up the highway to get away from downtown Thursday night, I thought to myself, "I've never had to flee my home before. Is this what it feels like to be a refugee?" I can't help but think about the families who live in neighborhoods where poverty and lack of safety are everyday realities. What about those who have no respite and no course of seeking safety? That night I had the privilege of running from harm's way and being safe within a matter of 20 minutes. Some people live in this kind of threat all day, every day. If this is what oppression feels like, then I can't imagine telling a people group to just calm down -- or worse, that they're making a big deal out of nothing.

I think it's easy to watch news stations and see headlines that pick the worst possible narratives from the Black Lives Matters movement. If my home was constantly at risk, if my children were vulnerable to a police officer mistreating them because of their skin color, if I couldn't sit at a stop light in my car without being suspected of a possible crime -- I know for a FACT I would be rallying for change.

I've been reading people's posts, the Fox News headlines that say the Black Lives Matter protesters are terrorists. And I'm heart broken all over again. The people you see on national TV news are not your neighbors. And I can't fathom anything more privileged than the right to sit from a place of safety and say, "You're just overreacting. The data doesn't tell me you're being oppressed at all so please stop bothering me with your cries for help."

I point out my bedroom window and want to scream: What about your neighbor?