Another day — another Mother’s child dead, another mass shooting. Just another day in America — no longer the “land of the free and home of the brave.”
But then it never was.
Oh, there has been courage a plenty. We see just that in those who have fought for equality and justice down through the years. And we ‘ve seen the cowardice, selfishness, willful ignorance and cruelty of those who fight back against what this Nation claims as its ideals — freedom and justice for all.
Freedom is impossible without justice and far too many of us seem to be ok with that. We make constant excuses for the inexcusable, including blaming the victim.
“What was that child doing out at 3am with a gun?”
Former police officer Derek Chauvin had use of force complaints before killing George Floyd, including shooting one suspect, involved in the fatal shooting of another, and receiving at least 17 complaints during his nearly two decades with the Minneapolis PD.
The police officer who murdered Tamir Rice had been found “unfit to serve” and dismissed from the Independence Police Department in Ohio, before he was hired by the Cleveland Police Department.
All of that was not enough to prevent another Ohio police department from hiring him.
Officer who fatally shot Tamir Rice quits Ohio police department days after he was hiredTamir’s mother said thousands of people had protested the hiring of Timothy Loehmann as a part-time officer in Bellaire, Ohio.
There is a pattern here, a long standing one. And it affects all of us.
A piece by Issac Bailey in Greg’s APR this morning should be mandatory reading.
…We’ve bathed our culture in so many guns that it is reasonable to wonder who is carrying one and what they plan to do with it. It’s not crazy for cops to assume a gun is present in every vehicle they stop, just as it’s not crazy for Black men to think they might become the next hashtag during a traffic stop because a cop was having a bad day or can’t tell the difference between a Taser and Glock.
We’ve sprung a trap on ourselves and can’t see our way out. Or maybe we don’t want to. But each side isn’t equally at fault. Any death is a tragedy, but police officers are rarely harmed or killed in traffic stops. Yet they have been told time and again to always be on guard, to always be afraid because they might — might — be a split second away from an event that will mean they won’t make it home that night. Never mind what Washington Post criminal justice reporter Radley Balko recently pointed out, that maybe 5 to 10 traffic stops end in an officer being killed — out of about 30 million annually.While I understand a cop’s fear, it’s not the same as wondering if your kid might be killed after a cop decides to pull him over or because he was selling loose cigarettes on a street corner. Random violence is the scariest crime because there’s nothing you can do to avoid it, because you can’t anticipate it. We understand that when a young man shoots up a school or mall or movie theater. That’s what police violence has done to me. It’s why even though I’ve never been harmed by police, I can’t help but wonder if that’s gonna change by tomorrow….
The piece, “Confessions of a Former Bastard Cop” does a good job explaining just what happens in police departments. “Fear” is only part of it. Racism is another. Protecting the system at all costs, even human life — the fundamental guiding principle.
…This “they hate you for protecting them and only I love you, only I can protect you” tactic is familiar to students of abuse. It’s what abusers do to coerce their victims into isolation, pulling them away from friends and family and ensnaring them in the abuser’s toxic web. Law enforcement does this too, pitting the officer against civilians. “They don’t understand what you do, they don’t respect your sacrifice, they just want to get away with crimes. You’re only safe with us.”
I think the Wolves vs. Sheepdogs dynamic is one of the most important elements as to why officers behave the way they do. Every single second of my training, I was told that criminals were not a legitimate part of their community, that they were individual bad actors, and that their bad actions were solely the result of their inherent criminality. Any concept of systemic trauma, generational poverty, or white supremacist oppression was either never mentioned or simply dismissed. After all, most people don’t steal, so anyone who does isn’t “most people,” right? To us, anyone committing a crime deserved anything that happened to them because they broke the “social contract.” And yet, it was never even a question as to whether the power structure above them was honoring any sort of contract back.
Understand: Police officers are part of the state monopoly on violence and all police training reinforces this monopoly as a cornerstone of police work, a source of honor and pride. Many cops fantasize about getting to kill someone in the line of duty, egged on by others that have. One of my training officers told me about the time he shot and killed a mentally ill homeless man wielding a big stick. He bragged that he “slept like a baby” that night. Official training teaches you how to be violent effectively and when you’re legally allowed to deploy that violence, but “unofficial training” teaches you to desire violence, to expand the breadth of your violence without getting caught, and to erode your own compassion for desperate people so you can justify punitive violence against them….
What has become blatantly apparent is that the police department motto of “To Protect and Serve” only serves itself, not the communities law enforcement claims to work for.
It’s not a few “bad apples” in law enforcement. It’s the system that enables and protects them.
I’m not Black but have some understanding of the kind of pervasive fear Issac Bailey wrote about for CNN. It’s the fear every member of the Black community carries. It’s the nightmare of every Black parent.
Mine was due to a violent growing up and never knowing who would be hurt next – my mother, brothers and sisters, or myself. It was long childhood years spent waiting for the next blow to fall, wondering if my mother would be alive when I came home from school, wondering if we would survive. It is a soul sapping way to exist. A constant struggle to keep going.
It is that kind of fear that we put Black communities through every damn day.
No one should have to spend their days wondering if a loved one will die. No one should have to wonder if they are going to be next. There is no excuse for this. None. And yet this country has done just that to our Black fellow citizens for centuries. It must stop.
The white citizenry of this country has a collective responsibility to do just that. Only we can end this country’s long history of injustice and cruelty. Failure to do so will stand as a moral indictment down through the ages.
The choice is ours.
History is watching.