Earlier this week, a discussion rolled across my Facebook feed. Experts offered opinions. Jokes and quips landed badly. People got mad and the texts back and forth just scrolled, and scrolled, and SCROLLED down my screen.
People were offended by the terms “sassy bitch” used by a Police officer/expert in reference to people who are pulled over for violations. The idea that someone may have been joking when they wondered aloud if the situation would have ended differently had the officer used pepper spray – the subject of which is a woman who is now dead under murky circumstances at best – may have been a joke when stated, but amongst some of those present to the conversation, sounded like needless provocation.
Sandra Blank, in my opinion, should not have been pulled over, much less arrested, because she was changing lanes to avoid a Police Officer speeding up on her rear bumper and in her haste forgot to signal. This would probably be why the officer initially was to issue a warning – before the resentful driver expressed her resentment, and the Police officer took her expression of resentment as someone being a “sassy bitch” and NOT as someone feeling unjustly persecuted for trying to do the right thing.
Experts in the field chimed in and the input was appreciated, but maybe it wasn’t understood by the expert that when people are looking at one more person dead after an encounter with the police, joking about pepper spray, or referring to anyone as a “sassy bitch” may be needlessly provocative and inappropriate.
The same expert then decides, in the midst of the discussion, to promote a project he is working on. When I responded that I wouldn’t be offering opinions about “the expert’s” project, he responded in a way that was understood as insulting. He probably didn’t realize the person he attempted to lightly brush off is a person who has worked on presentations for Million Dollar properties in the Metro DC area, and IPOs for Nasdaq-listed companies, has over 10 years design experience, current signed contracts for promotional materials for International companies, and is currently not accepting new clients. This and other reasons would be why my advice is not offered where design and marketing are concerned. I’ve signed a non-disclosure agreement with a PR firm and a need to be cognizant of potential conflicts of interest while under contract.
As an aside, the promotion of said project during a discussion could be seen as a technique known as “derailing.”-where when subject matter gets uncomfortable, an awkward change of subject not pertaining at all to the topic at hand is dropped into the middle of a feed. It may not have been intended as a “de-rail” by the person changing the subject, but it was certainly taken by the other people in the conversation as one.
Taking umbrage and miscommunication got a woman killed in Texas, possibly another in Alabama in the past couple days, and countless others before this sort of thing was brought to public attention, so sometimes its best to step back, take a breath or two, review what happened, and see if there’s another way to look at it.
Currently this year 204 people (and counting) died in 204 days at the hands of Police.
Its understood the Police are doing their jobs, and all – and really, not even most – officers of the law are not bad people or guilty of overreach. Some are pleased that scrutiny has finally come, because under previous circumstances, had the good cops stepped forward and reported those in their ranks abusing their power, its distinctly possible they’d be punished for their candor, as they’ve seen other “indiscrete” offers before and be subject to the “Serpico” treatment. So some of this scrutiny is causing officers of the law to think twice before they pull a taser, or a gun, or escalate a conflict.
That’s a good thing.
That said, even the good police officers need to be aware that people are justifiably angry, upset, and hurt as daily, one more report of a police encounter gone horribly wrong lands. The police are feeling scrutinized, and frankly they should. Specifically those with a history of crossing the line, and failing to de-escalate a situation, or those with biases they not even be aware they have, but when you tally the data, react differently to people they encounter based on race, class , ethnicity, and gender. Those have caused some trouble, and there’s likely to be scrutiny and more for a long time to come, so the Police probably should get used to the fact that people are going to be watching, and filming, and second-guessing.
With all this going on, maybe rather than getting angry and lashing out, as some likely will do, maybe it might be a time for the Police and those who train them to look at their methods, look a the results, look at the deaths and the high incarceration rates, and law suits burdening the cities because people reacted while emotions and adrenaline were peaking and not when the best course of action might have been to just stop.
Just stop. Take a breath. Bring down the tone and try to find a solution where everyone walks away alive and intact.
A long silenced conversation has begun as those who have sworn to protect and serve have been militarized, monetized, in some cases overzealously trained to believe that they are “a thin, blue line” that stands between civility and the criminals who are out to destroy society. Minorities and Black men in particular since the days of Reagan, and up to and including “Stop-And-Frisk” laws have been subject to undue scrutiny and violence and death. As days go by, we are beginning to see the silent violence against women by officers of the law is also coming to light and under scrutiny.
It may be time for both sides to take a breath and cool down from the knee jerk impulse to escalate a situation and to begin to see that there really aren’t sides at all. We, the Police and the Civilians, are just trying to get through another day, get some food in our bellies, find a comfortable place to sleep, and maybe even get in a rewarding good days’ work. We’d all like to arrive home alive in an one piece.
Let’s all do what we can to help each-other do that.
If it means I keep my hands on the wheel, my tone measured, and do what an officer requests as long as the request are reasonable and legal, then I can do that.
If it means that Police officers realize that when I get pulled over, I’m likely already late to where I’m supposed to be and your red-and-blue flashing lights in my window at the very least mean that there’s a brand new big surprise I have to budget for out of a tight paycheck on the optimistic side, or an amped up potential racist bent on pressing my face into gravel with his knee in my back, a taser at the ready, or a bullet with my name on it as worst case scenarios running through my head as I’m trying to listen to the voice in my head ticking down the list of “did I pay my insurance this month?” “My registration is up to date?” “I haven’t had anyone in my car who may have left me a “gift” that could get me arrested?” etc.
I haven’t done anything wrong except maybe bend that speeding limit a bit, but these are the worries that go through my head, and since I’m not that special, likely go through most other folks heads when they get pulled over.
Maybe we’d have less of a problem if all of us were thought of as living, breathing human beings first, and not as a potential threat to pride, power, safety, and life?
Maybe we should all take a breath and remember that for the most part, we all want to get home safely and do what we can to help make that happen?