Not all white people are racists.
Every muslim isn’t radical.
All black men aren’t gangsters.
I was wildly aware of race at a very young age because I grew up in a all white suburb. Playing at the pool and being asked about my hair, watching Roots in 7th grade social studies class. Having to answer questions about my race at the start of those stupid standardized tests were constant reminders that I was different from everyone else. I’ll never forget going to a 5th grade graduation party at Scott’s house and Robby yelling, “WHY ARE WE LISTENING TO ALL THIS NIGGER MUSIC?!” That was 5th grade! That was when I knew for sure I wasn’t like everybody else and never would be. Of course Robby was an outlier. My next door neighbor a white woman who still proudly wears her badge as my ‘second mom’ told me as soon as we began to converse about race that “everyone doesn’t think like that.” I carry her words with me around the world and still value her reminding me that hate is held in the hands of very few.
Growing up I never feared the police.
As a kid, I had nothing but glowing examples of what it is to be law enforcement. My AAU basketball coaches from 7th grade until 12th grade were Wake County Sheriff Deputies. These men served to the community by maintaining peace in the streets, providing for us financially as we traveled playing the game we love, and countless hours helping us practice and providing transportation wherever we wanted to go. It was the coolest thing in the world to get picked up from school early in a squad car to ride to Greensboro for a basketball tournament. My respect for the law continued once my sorority sister decided to join the force bringing beauty and brains to her department. For so long I saw the police through eyes of admiration because of these personal experiences. But it only takes one bad apple to spoil a bunch.
What goes up must come down.
As I’ve grown, explored, and left the safety net of the suburbs I’ve watch police around America muddle the respect I had for law enforcement as a child. Once in West Memphis, my cousin Brandon and I were pulled over, thoroughly searched and sent on our way. I was freaked out but Brandon found it routine which literally made me sick to my stomach. A few summers later, in Oakland my cousin Raymond was detained for ghost riding his whip. After being released with no resources to contact family or water in the heat of the summer he died of complications from the trauma of the incident. In both instances I was slow at the time to immediately condemn the police because I believed they were better than the picture painted. I knew officers of the law that upheld it well and I made up my mind that that’s how most officers are. But what I’ve seen in the media and heard from older people in my community has left me feeling like I can never call the police again.
The final stroke.
One interaction, one bad cop. There is a person in my life that is a police officer. Trust me when I say I would NEVER engage with this person but life has dealt me a hand where I must. This cop is the epitome of what I see is wrong with law enforcement in American. Whenever we speak he is immediately hostile. He constantly treats me like a suspect. He assumes that there is always a problem. He lacks empathy and ignores anything that has to do with feelings or emotions. Every time I have to speak with, see, or engage with this person there is a strong unnecessary distaste that he brings to every conversation. I blame this person’s unpleasantness sheerly on the fact that he is an officer of the law. His engagements are negative, he elects to stick with fear and intimidation over kindness and fairness. He wears his job on his sleeve and I see in him all the reasons why people don’t respect, honor, or appreciate law enforcement. It is sad.
There must be a fundamental change in the way law enforcement officials engage with the community. Everyone is not a suspect. Everyone is not out to cause problems or to do harm. I am not a cop and can never speak to their experiences however, I truly believe the majority of people officers come in contact with want to go home at the end of the day just as bad as the officer does.
I’m not just here to complain.
- Every cop should treat non-violent situations as though they were dealing with people they love. How can you claim to serve a people you do not care about? Cops must care more about the people and treat them as such. Fake it till you make it.
- Cops should have a shelf life. It’s fine to build a career but cops need to rotate around the department. Do different things. The job is grueling. Simmering in a pot of violence for years and years will only result in burns.
- Stop acting like there isn’t a problem.
Caroline Kennedy noted, “America was founded on ideas and values – freedom, equality, tolerance and diversity. The fact that ours is the oldest written constitution still in use is a testament to the enduring power of those ideas, and to the skill with which the founders framed them. It is easy to take this heritage for granted, but these ideals have survived only because individual citizens in war and in peacetime have sacrificed and struggled to breathe life into the words of the sacred text and to define those words anew for each generation.”