I have family members and friends who are police officers. Their job is unspeakably difficult and thankless.Nobody notices when they get it right and immediately second guess them when they get it wrong. Our society depends on all of us recognizing that police officers are fellow citizens who bleed and want to go home at night.
I have friends and colleagues that I love very much who are not white people. I studied African-American history and culture as one of my academic majors. I am sensitive to my privileges and the unspeakable indignities and endless second-guessing people of color endure in our society. I know they want police officers to recognize them as fellow citizens who bleed and want to go home at night.
I am sick over the videos of American citizens being summarily executed by men who are supposed to be protecting and serving them. I watched Alton Sterling murdered by a police officer. He obviously posed no threat and the way he was trying to cover his face with his arm as he bled out will haunt me for a long time to come; I thought of Caesar covering his face as he bled out on the Senate floor. I do not know how Lavish Reynolds managed to be more composed than the officers pointing the guns at her were while Philando Castile died beside her, but her dignity and courage is a reminder that when faced with terror we can still choose to retain our decency.
It is not an attack on police or white people to assert that#BlackLivesMatter. When people respond by saying “All Lives Matter” they are missing the point; of course all people matter, the problem is that black folks in the USA do not receive the same treatment from the police as well as other social institutions. That is an inarguable fact; think of all the white people who point guns at the police and get sent home with a stern talking-to, then imagine any black person doing that.
The solutions and problems here are bigger than race. For one thing, firearms training for officers shouldn’t simply be a matter of how many holes they can put into a target but of how to react in stress situations. Subconscious reactions can be trained when they are acknowledged. There are studies that show that not only do white officers react more negatively to black individuals, but black officers do as well. Institutionalized racism is a bias within our society that affects everybody’s heads; this is why when we talk about race, nobody should feel guilt or shame about feelings or thoughts. We are, of course, always responsible for our actions and words; but by honestly acknowledging a bias we can compensate for it the way a glass lens can correct a weak eye.
I am young enough to have been born into a world where Dr. King and Malcolm X were historical figures and old enough to know how much resentment and racial rage is lurking in the hearts of my fellow humans. When I say this begins with honesty, I don’t mean just blurting out every hateful thing that crosses your mind. That’s not honesty, that’s narcissism. Honesty means getting real with yourself before you can get real with others; it’s more important to believe yourself than to believe in yourself.
I don’t know if any of this even makes much sense. I just had to say something.