This began as a simple caption to the title image above, but as you can see it ended up be much more; so many connecting factors had to be mentioned in order to get my point across. And then once it was posted, I realized I still had plenty more to say which I was going to post to the Awe, Really Podcast Facebook, but it's been a while since I've blogged so here we are
Tense emotions about recent instances of violence towards law enforcement, and unnecessary use of excessive/deadly force seem to finally dying down a little bit. I had absolutely no intention of writing so much when posting this image on the @AweReallyDudes IG page, but I just started and the ideas kept flowing. (scroll down for full IG caption)
Violence should only be used when reason and compassion fail. I don't think we've given either method a shot (no pun intended)
I talk about this issue quite frequently, unfortunately a lot more often then I'd like, to feel obligated to do so and have said many times that we need to identify the issue before we can resolve anything or even begin to try.
I've certainly never had the experience or perspective of being a police officer, prosecutor, corrections officer, or any other position in which it was my duty and responsibility to risk my own life for others; I've attempted to help a friend who was being jumped one time and I felt helpless and pretty fucking scared. I wouldn't dare pretend to understand what it must be like to do that day in and day out for people you don't even know; people whom you need to physically control to protect yourself as well as others who often times have no idea what you just did for them. And THAT'S when you do everything perfectly.
F*ck Corporate Media
There's a corporate media narrative on the right, that portrays people such as myself - who criticize the biased and ineffective practices/behavior embedded in police culture - as ignorant, ungrateful, social justice PC Nazis who are stubbornly unaware of the many dangers that officers deal with every day; that we see a handful of potentially chaotic situations of varying severity caught on video that end in an officer making what we automatically deem his consciously malicious decision that use of deadly force on a citizen was necessary.
Media portrayals aside, an issue undeniably exists despite the many officers across all demographics who are unaware and thus justifiably offended at what sounds to them like an unwarranted personal attack coming from a group of people who can't possibly understand the bredth of nuances and seemingly impossible to win judgement calls. A much clearer look in hindsight shows compelling evidence that in multiple instances, it was not necessarily an appropriate response, and in some cases a wildly reckless and inappropriate response. Of course hindsight is 20/20 and these life or death decisions must be made almost instinctively, so while we can't fairly judge a split-second life-or-death decision within the context of hindsight, however this does not justify an ongoing pattern of civilians executed in the street.
For weeks after yet another one of these occurrences, emotions are high and people make the same counterproductive, divisive, partisan arguments consisting of the rhetoric and propaganda fed to "this side," which is the exact opposite of the narrative fed to "that side." Both sides dig their heels in and nothing gets done until another incident occurs and the cycle repeats
They say there are 2 sides to every story, but they never said ONLY two. This false dichotomy scenario is perfectly outlined by competing TV networks who prioritize anything that gets ratings. I have to give it up to the news stations who are essentially fight promoters of the American People self destruction match.
Peace: What we all want
I want to stop people from wanting to attack police officers. I want to stop officers from killing citizens on the street. Many people hold both of these positions with absolute conviction simultaneously. They are not mutually exclusive.
The problem is that people are identifying false causes and intentions of those who they think of as the enemy, when the only reason they would feel that there is an enemy to identify, is a feeling of injustice. Cops exist to prevent injustice. Civilians by and large don't want injustice. Both sides have been exposed to a disproportionate amount of negative stimuli about those who are portrayed as the enemy which leads to the dehumanization of individuals which then leads to treating the enemy as subhuman, which makes the issue worsefurther perpetuating the cycle.
So what now?
We are in desperate need of a paradigm shift. The enemy is not our countrymen. Perceived adversaries can only achieve their common goal when working together. Cops are not the enemy of the people. The overwhelming vast majority of civilians are not a cop's enemy, or the enemy of the law enforcement as an institution.
The enemy is inefficiency. We need to stop believing that people are only groups of particles that think and act the same.
If you are a cop and you hear, "That cop should have known better!" - try to interpret as: "We need to spend more money on training resources. Wouldn't you want a higher budget? Perhaps stricter mandates on training hours. Wouldn't you want the best trained officer to have your back?
There's a subtle but distinctive difference between blaming an officer for intentionally killing an unarmed man just because of the color of his skin, and determining that even with best of intentions, simply and sadly, MISTAKES WERE MADE! And when this happens on what seems like a regular basis, it needs to be addressed. Regardless of the fact that the multitude videos we've all seen in a few too many iterations being only a TINY representation of officer to citizen interactions, perception is reality.
If you are that officer who pulled the trigger and genuinely felt that you had NO other options, that is NOT immoral! It's greatly unfortunate, but honor can be restored with honesty and humility to speak out and demand to receive the training necessary where you are far less likely to find yourself in a novel situation that leads to fear and rash judgement. If there really is no pattern of citizen abuse, if race truly has no influence on police culture, then ENCOURAGE the conversation that will allow those who are not equipped with the experience of being an officer.
Teamwork makes the dream work
You hear in every cycle of a shooting that a civilian could never conceptualize the experience of that lifestyle and how it affects your behavior and thought process. But there's no reason that we can't outline the logic and philosophy of the mind of the officer in a way that this cognitive experiential deficiency can be minimized. Science is a wonderful thing. We can isolate variables and measure the effects of different environments and stimuli, we can make calculations that offer reliable predictions on the effects of different approaches to improving the current state of of race relations and the biases that are likely to occur given the type of experiences inherent to police work.
With the sheer amount if money that circulates throughout the criminal justice system and all its extended entities. The equipment and vehicles and the overhead of each precinct and jail and prison, I refuse to accept that the allocation of funding is grosslyineffective for all parties involved. Greed is the only thing preventing the necessary reform to redesign the basis of legislation that could affect the machine and break the cycle.
We need to address WHY people are commuting crimes and are assaulting peers and officers. We need to address the circumstances that foster this widespread culture that seems to be influenced by different factors in varying degrees.
If people are commuting crimes because they don't have money, whether they deserve it or not is a different conversation from whether or not giving them money would reduce crime at which point it's completely irrelevant what percentage of people determine that the government shouldn't be handing out money, it benefits all of society to help people be able to earn enough money that the need to turn to illegal practices to afford to eat and maintain shelter and all the things that we, as the greatest nation, decide that part of our patriotism is justified when we don't accept the oppression of our own. Of course this is a 1 dimensional look at the issue because just giving out money to everyone and calling it a day would not solve the violence issue, but this has an effect a thus warrants acknowledgement.
The point is we need to map out as intricately and accurately as possible the web of causes, factors and variables that lead us to the situation we find ourselves in, where no one is satisfied with large portions of social norms and the root catalysts that set these patterns of behavior into motion.
Then we need to implement the least intrusive policies that have the most comprehensive and progressive effects. We need to develop the humility to be mindful of our personal biases and desires and how they play into the greater good of the fabric of the nation.
By accepting the patriotic notion that we are expected to respect the civilian's inability to truly appreciate the officers worldview, by that same logic we must accept that the experiences of being black, or being poor, or growing up with the constant threat of danger (from community members and law enforcement alike,) or the psychological affects of growing up in an environment where most adults end up in prison, didn't finish high school, never met anyone who had been to college without a sports scholarship or had a legitimate source of income, all the while being surrounded by the black market resources to cultivate a contextually comfortable lifestyle that is perceived to be the height of their potential, and deciding that potential physical and legal ramifications of a criminal lifestyle, are worth the risk just to avoid having to survive on slave wages if they are lucky enough to find a position among the small range of options for legitimate work considering the lack of quality education and thus lack of respect or even awareness of what opportunities a quality education can provide (namely the tools to identify ones own weaknesses/virtues, and how to foster the virtues while mindfully attempting to overcome or compensate for the weaknesses, which leads to the paradigm shift that helps foster the motivation for improvement and the confidence to endulge a drive to achieve for the intrinsic satisfaction of success, what this constant cultural environment does to ones psychological capacity to accept that successful middle class living is simply not a practical reality, but a goal or status that is only available to some lucky people, and to genuinely believe that it is out of your reach - and the list is almost endless as to factors that make up the subjectivity that we so readily accept applies to police officers but get accused of throwing the race card when applying the same logic to race relations and the how white privilege is manifested.
Those who deny the existence of white privilege often deny the existence of a direct form of racism that is not completely gone by any means, but is fading faster and faster with each generation. This is the open assertion of the belief that whites are superior, minorities are inferior, that a person's race has inherent implications of certain rights and/or competency potential and/or predispositions of behavior.
Maybe this is a lot more common in the South and the Midwest, but in the Northeast, in Jersey and Philly and New York, people don't consciously hold prejudices nearly to the same degree that was legally mandated by the federal government within our parents' lifetime.
Instead, what exists is not an active, conscious thought process, which is implied by racISM - the ism implies an ideology or determined set of values and ideas - but white privilege, a far more subtle, nuanced, and inconspicuously influenced by patterns of thought/behavior and social norms that are unconsciously perpetuated but people of all races and genders.
White privilege does not mean all white people have easier lives than all black people. This seems to be the understanding that white privilege deniers have of what is meant by the term. This is obviously not the case and though dissenters of white privilege certainly exist who do actually believe that this nonsense, but they are the loud minority. Either way it doesn't negate the existence of the phenomenon that IS being referred to by the term white privilege.
An understanding of what is meant by white privilege allows one to humble one's self and appreciate the inherent obstacles that they might otherwise never have even considered, which others are unlucky enough to be forced to overcome simply because of the time, place, and other circumstances of their birth.
Even if we apply this logic to something other than race, the argument remains intact. If you were born in the neighborhood where I lived, regardless of your gender, race, weight, attractiveness, etc, if all that were the same but you were born in Rwanda, it seems almost ridiculous to claim that the suburban middle class kid from new jersey has no advantage over his theoretical identical twin living in a war torn 3rd world country, to achieve the same quality of life, mental health, financial success, or really anything else.
It seems like beating a dead horse to dive too deeply into how and why the failure of the Drug War/mass incarceration influences all these issues by unnecessarily turning non-violent people into criminals, breaking up families, and preventing the opportunity for the next generation from perpetuating the cycle of having poor minority communitiesmade up of fatherless families that are desperately lacking the safe and loving environment that a child needs to develop to the level necessary to know how to, and believe it is possible and worthwile to "pull himself up by his boot straps."
This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to unpacking and identifying the nuances and factors that contribute to race relations, violence against police officers, and excessive/deadly force against civilians by law enforcement. But we've got to start somewhere, and the 10 questions from the caption of this post on Instagram (screenshots below) seems to me to be a pretty practical starting point.
I'm not saying that I have developed the antidote. I'm just proposing that it's as good a place as any to start the conversation. I think these are 10 highly poignant questions to ask when it comes to addressing the police brutality side of things, which I believe is more manageable then trying to eliminate violent crime from society altogether.
If we can start a campaign to provide our communities with a police force that exists to protect and serve the rights and safety of its citizens, then it stands to reason that only the bad seeds on either side of the blue line would pose a problem. This panel would review controversial cases to ensure rights and safety are properly upheld. This is non negotiable. The blue wall of silence has to be taken far less literally. First degree manslaughter cannot be justified simply because the killer has a badge. That's part of your duty. To protect us. Even if it's one from your own. Transparency leads to trust leads to respect. Do we really want a police force that needs so much covering?
If I wanted to command respect for a group I was a part of and there were one or more people disgracing the values of what that group stands for, I would be outspoken that I felt there was a problem that needs to be fixed or excommunicated, because even I joined the group with the purest of intentions, but we must remain mindful of our personal fulfillment. If the group no longer represents the values that originally drew you in, then don't rationalize for them, just be true to yourself and follow your bliss. But if you want to stay, you owe it to the people to stay relevant with the nature of society within the community until you can smell the impending incident in the early
Just remember. Black people don't want to incite such fear in officers that make cops a legitimate variable and potential threat, and law enforcement officers most likely want to keep the peace and have to feel fearful to the degree where their judgement is impaired so if all people try to shake negative associations by overcompensating public opinions of those who have never walked in your shoes might not be so harsh by default.
What do you think?