BEN MARTINEZ
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All Minds Matter. Speak Your Mind. #BlackMindsMatter too

"You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength." - Marcus Aurelius

We can think what we want but always know it is your thoughts that make your life. Marcus Aurelius was a philosopher and Roman Emperor from 161 to 180 AD. Aurelius lived though many of his own children's deaths, a plague that caused ~ 2,000 deaths a day in Rome which ultimately killed five million people and wars that killed millions. He had to create a good life in his mind.

Each day we walk out our front door we have a chance of experiencing something terrible or awesome. These experiences are many times random and sometimes preventable. The world will always change, the universe will always get bigger and what happens before you walk out your front door on the outside will not be in your control. Right now someone is talking trash about you. You can not control them.

Many of us in America are trying to make sense of what just happened last week. We have the #BlackLivesMatter crowd vs. the #AllLivesMatter crowd but deep down in - we know each one of us matters. Right?

Each of us has an obligation to be better than we were the day before. For some, it means becoming more aware of unconscious bias, eliminating prejudice or not caring about trivial matters. For others, it could mean less judgment upon others. Whatever your weak spot, be aware of it and focus on making yourself better.

Your obligation is to control your mind and my obligation is to control my mind. My obligation is to be a good person to me, my wife, children, family and my community. If I do this part right, then I am doing my job. No, I am not perfect at it. I take my eye off the ball but I make it a regular practice to re-focus in the morning.

Yes, I currently live in Utah. A state not known for its racial and ethnic diversity (86% white, 1% black per the latest Census) but having lived in six different states in the U.S. over the last 16 years I probably have a different perspective on race, gender and sexuality than your average one state American homie.

Roughly twelve years ago, I had an experience with a police officer in Arkansas that has always made me wonder why it went down the way it went down. One night, I was driving a car with a few of my Salvadoran friends who spoke broken English and we were pulled over by a police officer. The police officer's reason was that I was swerving and he believed I was under the influence of alcohol. I did not think I was swerving and told him I was sober but he insisted on giving me a sobriety test by walking a straight line on the road.

Good news - I thought I passed the test.

Bad news - he thought I was under the influence of alcohol and took me to the police station to have a breathalyzer done. My Salvadoran friends had to walk home. 

When I was at the station I was asked, "where did you learn your English"? PS - I grew up speaking English as my first language and have no Spanish accent. My Spanish is terrible. But I digress...

I was taken back by the question and I told him I learned my English in Utah, then asked him..."Where did you learn your English?"...To which the police officer got upset and told me to shut my mouth.

Okay. So here I am, blowing into a breathalyzer to which I am certain I will pass and thinking something is not right. Fast forward the story, I pass the breathalyzer test and get released from the station at 3AM and have to walk home. No charges. Thankfully one of my Salvadoran friends picked me up on my walk home.

Over the years I have often thought I was treated differently because my last name is Martinez, I am browner than most white people and I was driving a carload of browner people than me from El Salvador who barely speak English. Then I hear that research shows African Americans and Hispanics are 3x more likely to be searched after being pulled over than white people. Was I treated differently? I don't know but I will always wonder. I was hesitant to open up and share my story because the whole story still is confusing to me.

I am not looking for a special pass or recognition with my story. I am not saying that I understand the struggles of a black person when dealing with the police or trying to say that what happened last week is my fight. What happened last week is far worse than my little breathalyzer incident. But I feel like I have to say something. There are people who are bias, racist or intolerant of others and some police officers are some of those people but that does not make all police officers bad people.

Just like your hipster office is full of mostly wonderful people, there could be a few people running around that you and everyone knows are ignorant. You and just about everyone wants the ignorant people fired.

My experience in Arkansas does not make me hate police officers. I think the large majority of police officers are wonderful people and respect their job beyond the recognition they will ever get. I have friends who are police officers and have been treated fair and honest by police officers. I just had that one bad experience in Arkansas.

The police need to fix their organization and they know it. We need to walk in arms with the police, black people and all people and help America get through this time.

Support black people. Support police people. Support white people and brown people. When you speak up for people, they feel supported.

When ignorant politicians (aka Trump) say outlandish things about Mexicans, Muslims or whatever category - this is not support. If you want a new idea on how you can help support people read an old book or read up on some history. Read a book on Mahatma Gandhi, read The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B Du Bois (it's over 100 years old) or listen to the MLK "I Have A Dream Speech". Click below and ponder a bit on what MLK was talking about in 1963. Have we gotten better, America? Read different books than what is on your current book shelf.

Read different books than what is on your current book shelf...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0yP4aLyq1g

We can overcome this. Some of what MLK talks about in his speech has not been accomplished. Let's continue to join forces together. Of course - all lives matter. Without brave policemen, our society would be much more terrible. This is obvious. Overcome the trivial arguments of the #blacklives vs. #alllives matter. Black lives and minds to be heard right now. Listen.

The point is that black people need support right now. They need to know that brown people support them, white people support them, police officers support them and you support them. They have a mind like you have a mind and I would imagine a black person's mind is in discontent right now.

As MLK said - "1963 is not an end but a beginning". 2016 is not a time to turn to business as usual. It is a time to clear your mind and talk about our differences and intolerances. We all have biases. Many unconscious. Some conscious. Talk about them. To not talk about them causes us to be bitter and hate others. When is the last time you fixed a problem without talking?

Our struggles and protest do not need to turn into physical violence. The best choice you have is to get power over your thoughts and mind so you can help yourself, your family and community. We all need to walk together. We need to rise above. We can do this America.

If you doubt that we can't do this I encourage you to walk to a community play ground that has kids of all colors playing on it. A couple days after the Dallas police shootings I happened to be in downtown Boston. I took my family to the Boston Commons and watched my half-brown kids play with black kids, Chinese kids and white kids. I saw them all play and make new friends. I saw them not care about race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. Ahhh.... Young humans in America playing nice together in the play ground.

Something happens when we get old. It's like we pollute our minds with media and turn everything we hear from the media as fact when it is just an opinion or some media junkie high on Diet Coke wanting you to believe what they say as you suck down your Diet Coke and watch Coca Cola commercials that show people of all color interacting in the commercial. I call BS. Reference the 1999 lawsuit where Coca Cola settled for $156 million to resolve a racial bias case. Think like a child again. Even if your bones and skin are old.

I have an idea. Focus on being good. It's a privilege to be alive and love.

I will leave you with one more Marcus Aurelius quote - "Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one." You can delete "man" with "woman" to apply to your situation because that quote is 2,000 years old.

I will focus my time on being a good man and say little more about this matter on my blog. All minds matter. Black minds need to speak their mind. White people need to listen, then speak. Get off Facebook, finish your Diet Coke and put down the TV remote. Clear your mind.

Each day - you will meet honest people, kind people and funny people just like each day you will meet crooked people, mean people and negative people with nasty intentions. These people come in all races, religions and nationalities. Once you come to grips with who you will meet then you know what to expect and you can pay little attention to race, religion or nationality. There are all types of people in any category and you will meet them.

And with that - I am taking my family across America this week as we return from Boston to Utah. I just spoke my mind because it matters just like your mind matters. Black minds matter too. Peace.