My husband is a police officer: He is not white. He is not “African American.” He is Puerto Rican. He has been discriminated against his entire life. He grew up in a “wooden house.” Only one person in his family had the coveted “concrete house” that will save you from a hurricane when it comes through. I joke, and it feels insensitive to actually write it out… that he lived in a shack. We try to make our kids understand that what they have is enough. We live in a small three bedroom home with only one bathroom. He truly did not have much of anything by the way of material possessions, or a present father. His grandmother helped raise him, because his mom HAD to work. Constantly. She did not receive any help from the government. None.The minimum wage is almost half of what it is here in “America.” According to many, Puerto Rico is not really part of the U.S. Many highly educated people have argued this point with us. It is disgusting. No matter that people there join the military and fight alongside all of their “American” counterparts. I have had people actually say to me, “We fight for them on that island.” As if people in Puerto Rico do not fight for a country that disdains them. My children do not understand or speak Spanish, because so many people, sadly, my family included, shamed him about it. When his grandmother died recently, we could not afford to buy a ticket for him to say goodbye. He cried his heart out, and my heart ached for him. No matter the financial struggle, he probably would not have been able to get off of work, because he is a police officer.
His dream in life was to join the ranks of the Police. However, when he started trying, it was much harder than anticipated. He was accused of being in a gang; of not fitting the high standards that it takes to represent the Police. I believed that his minority status and his bi-lingual ability would help him. However, it really did not; he had to fight all that much harder to overcome pre-conceived notions people do not even try to hide. It was heartbreaking to watch him fail over and over again, when he wanted it so badly. If I knew what I know now I am not sure I would have spent countless hours praying that he would realize his “dream.” Was it a dream…or a nightmare? I am not sure anymore. He has changed in the short two years he has been representing the “thin blue line.” He is a shadow of his former self. He works 12 hour swing shifts. Mind you, they are never twelve hours. More like fourteen. He is never home on time. His days never end. He wears his exhaustion like clothing. It is part of the very fabric of his being. It is impossible for any human, because of our nature, to let all the things that police see day in and out slide off of them. I hear stories of chest compressions on dying people; feeling the ribs crack from the pressure of his hands while not knowing if the person is going to make it. People he has never met before and may never meet again; saving their lives. Everyday. Over and over again. A few month’s ago he ran into a burning house to save a 90 + year old woman. She didn’t make it. Thank God in heaven he did. All the while we were at home; brushing teeth, doing homework, going to basketball practice. I had no idea I could have lost my husband that night. Her son saw him a few days later and barely acknowledged him. He is NEVER thanked. Ever. Not even from his superiors. I think that they have been in it so long and they were never thanked either. Passing the torch of thanklessness, so to speak. While I am outraged at this; he is not looking for gratitude. He simply states: “I am just doing my job.” He has saved drug addicts caught between this world and the next. Most of them disdain him. However, he saves them regardless.
He helps everyone. To him there is no difference between race, creed, color, or age. All the while the true “Americans,” a.k.a., white people, give him dirty looks and tell him they want to talk to a real police officer that can speak English. We have “friends”… who actually express their discrimination toward Hispanics right to his face. Then, in an effort to redeem themselves, slap him on the back and tell him he’s the only good one. It hurts him but I am the only one who knows. On the flip side, African Americans and gay people tell him he is discriminating against them. Black people say he is a white cop targeting them. Never mind that he has a gay brother, uncle, cousin, and a black best friend…and is most definitely not white. The hatred goes on and on. We are living in an age of constant fear, reaching manic proportions.
I am not a typical cop’s wife… I have truancies in my past and have had arguments with police officers. I am outspoken and tell people when I think they have screwed up, and some of those people happen to be cops. I have not committed any major crimes, but I enjoy speeding and drank underage, and am fairly liberal. In my younger years, I enjoyed marijuana immensely. I was self-medicating, but that’s another story… People that I run into from years ago are often very surprised that I am married to a cop. Probably not as surprised as me. I envisioned joining the Peace Corps. or living in Switzerland. I am not as supportive as I should be. I feel the effects of his job and do not completely understand the rigidity that comes along with it. None of us can. We have not been on the front line. We need to try to have compassion for the police AND the people they serve. I do not know how to do that. Especially since my marriage seems as if it is falling apart since he became a police officer. How can I expect everyone else to support them if I don’t know how to do it myself? I admit this with much sadness. I do not know how we are going to manage to change things. I hope we can, together. #All lives matter