Martin Luther King Jr. said be peaceful, but I’m pretty sure that it Malcom X and the fear of having the country set on fire that pushed the US Government to the table and to action on Civil Rights. When peaceful protests aren’t covered but teargas, firehoses, and building set on fire wind up getting on the news, sometimes anger pushes people to irrational choices.
Nobody seems to want to listen to the fact that even before this week’s events, Black men were killed, jailed, harassed, beaten, fired, not promoted, expelled from school, penalized more harshly, thought of as dangerous and told in word and in deed over and over again that we aren’t worth shit, we’re lazy, we aren’t working hard enough, even when you measure output and we are working in multiples harder than those around us just to keep the tiny bit you allow us to have, sometimes we get angry.
If you keep telling us who we are and what we built are nothing, and then you keep taking actions to destroy who we are and what we build, and then you sit behind your thin glass windows, bellied up to the steaming feast while we peer in from the outside, hungry and tired, can you really blame anyone out here with us standing on a sidewalk full of bricks from prizing up a few and aiming them, some only to get access to the feast, others to wipe the satisfied smugness off your face?
One of us managed to get elected to the White House anyway, and that made you mad. Mad enough to become more bold in your hunt. Mad enough to insult his wife and his children. Mad enough to try to take apart any achievement, even if the only way he was able to get you to listen to any ideas, was to take your bad ideas, attempt to fix what was wrong with them, and then offer them to you as brand new ideas.
You do realize that one day, 20 years from now, when the words you wrote on your Facebook page or website or blog are still sitting in the archives of history, just waiting to be Googled as part of your children’s homework assignments, that the justifications you offered up for treating other human beings as less than human will be scrutinized. You’ll likely be long dead, and your grandchildren will have to change their last names to be able to live with the shame.
Is there a way to fix this?
Is there a way to make the human beings who are part of the system stop justifying their actions with “Its my job. I was following orders.” bullshit lines and actually realize something. When you pull that gun and shoot, you are killing someone’s father. You are killing someone’s son. When you choke out that guy selling loosies on a NYC street, he might be selling them to feed his kids because you told him he’s not hire-able and his wife job might not pay enough to feed the kids, keep a roof overhead, and pay the bus or train fare to get everyone where they need to go. When you assume that one walking down the street with his hands in his pockets is up to no good, he has a name. Someone somewhere likely loves that person and will miss them. The same as someone somewhere likely loves you and would miss you.
Maybe we don’t need another law. Another investigation. Another protest.
Maybe what we need to do as human beings is start acknowledging each other’s humanity. Maybe we need to start looking at life as finite, having value, being precious, and taking a life shouldn’t be something that someone does to stop someone from doing something we don’t like. Maybe the idea of taking a life because while wearing body armor in a bullet-proof vehicle, surrounded by options that could shock or disable a person who means to cause harm should not be the first, acceptable or justifiable action taken?
Maybe the reason you were given pairs of effective tools as part of your body is that you were meant to use them more than the others?
Use your eyes. Try seeing the other person’s humanity. They may or may not be a criminal. Its really not your job to figure that out. Leave that up to the judge, but people really need to be alive so they can have their chance at telling their side of the story.
Use your ears. Listening to what’s being said might actually clue you in to what that person needs and might actually keep an interaction from escalating. You have time to listen, because listening before acting can save lives.
Use your hands. Not as weapons or to operate weapons, but in the way people use them to respect other people. Have you considered introducing yourself? Asking someone to shake your hand? Maybe rather than using the “Voice of Command” and barking orders at people, how about the “Voice of Inquiry” where you just want to know what’s going on so maybe you can protect and serve? You know, that oath you have to take when you become an officer which you have to know by now is ringing pretty hollow with those of us who have seen your brothers in blue choke people out, shoot people in the back when they were already face down or had their hands up, fire tear gas at children, and lots of other stuff that seems to stray very VERY far from the whole “protect and serve” thing.
Use your words. Get out of your car and talk with people. If people get to know your name and your face and get to realize that you are a whole lot more than “THE POLICE”, they might be more likely to be more human to you, so you can be more human to them.
There are people out there who’ll defend you no matter what, and that’s fine, but here’s the thing – if you chose to go and be honorable and protect and serve the public, should any part of your job make people fear you or have to choose sides in an argument about you? If you are acting honorably, there shouldn’t be “sides” for people to choose. Especially those of us who haven’t done anything wrong and are just trying to struggle through life, grabbing a little bit of joy here and there? You know. Kind of like you and your family does every day?