Saturday, July 09, 2016

Not a Zero Sum Game

     The incidences that occurred this past week where two black men were shot by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and St. Paul Minnesota, and the retaliatory attack on police officers in Dallas, Texas have caused me no end of conflicting emotions. More than the previous spate shootings of black men by police officers.

      And it always seems like when one of these incidents occurs, everybody circles the wagons, takes up sides and starts lobbing bombs. The police claim that there is a war against them by the citizenry. The protestors claim that the police aren't willing to eliminate the rogue elements in their ranks.

     And of course, Facebook and Twitter and other forms of social media erupt with idiotic, racist, and anti police memes, posts, tweets, rushes to judgement, simplistic answers to hard questions, and the usual reactions that make folks believe that if you are part of Black Lives Matter, you must be against the police, or if you are solidly behind the police, think that BLM want to rejoice in the deaths of police officers. 

     Understand folks, this isn't a zero sum game. Being for Black Lives Matter doesn't make you anti-police. Nor is it vice versa. These two entities do not have to work at cross purposes to each other.

     I don't hate cops. In my line of work, I occasionally have to work with cops. I respect what they do. And I know that they have to make split second decisions on when to pull their firearms and make a life-changing decision on both sides. I get that.

     But I'm also black. And I know about the history between black people and the police that has gone down through the life of this country. I've seen the pictures of police beating on protestors trying to get the same rights that white folks have. I have heard the stories. I know about how black folks don't trust the police and clam up when the cops look for witnesses to crimes that happen in our neighborhoods.

     And that is most troubling. We expect the cops to protect us, but we don't trust them enough to protect us from retaliation when we inform them of crimes happening to us by us. What a problem we have.   But it's getting tiresome seeing our black men being killed by police for no apparent reason.

     Being stopped at a traffic stop and in the process of pulling out your license and carry permit for the firearm that you told the cop about and then being shot? You're doing what the cop ordered you to do and you get shot?  You're being held down by two cops, completely immobilized, can't move. One cop says that you have a gun, which you can't get to because there are two cops holding you down. One cop shoots you.  Is that correct police procedure?  Reminds me of the Eric Garner case. Took five cops to bring him down, they choked the man out, he dies. Those cops lives weren't in danger. Five cops to take down one admittedly large man?  Something's wrong here. 

     I don't do the Black Lives Matter thing. But I understand what they are doing. Do some of them hate cops? Yes, and I can understand why if they have either suffered police brutality personally or know of a friend or family member who has suffered police brutality. And there are those who will use Black Lives Matter as a front to justify doing things like what the snipers did in Dallas. 

     But i'm sure that there are members of Black Lives Matter who know cops, are related to cops, who might even BE cops, who just want to see the killing stop. Who want to see the bad guys whether they wear badges or not brought to justice. Who want to see the trust between black folks and police restored, so that the police can do their job of protecting us. And that we, the people can help the police protect us by fingering the bad guys without worrying about retaliation.

     It's not easy to rebuild that trust. And the answers won't be found on Facebook, Twitter or social media. It's gonna require acknowledging the problems of the past that have provided the fertile ground for what is happening today. The police need to be willing to expunge those in their ranks who can't or won't do their jobs with the professionalism required.  The community needs to be willing to help the police to root out crime by being witnesses and coming forward without fear.

    The overwhelming majority of cops are good people who are called on to do what I think is a Sisyphean task. They see humanity at its worst every day.  They go towards trouble when others run away from it. And they don't get paid nearly enough to do it. I do not envy them their jobs. When they do good, nobody remembers, but when they screw up, no one forgets.