by S.A. Prince
So they shook cause ain’t no such thing as halfway crooks. Scared to death, scared to look, they shook.
- “Shook Ones, Part II” by Mobb Deep
This morning as I was about to board a plane from Hancock to McCarran a police officer crossed my path. I always make it a point to address any and every public servant I come across. Usually the reception is heartfelt and warm, but today was different. I guess that’s to be expected though. It hasn’t really been the best week for police officers, specifically with their use of deadly force in Louisiana and Minnesota, both occurring a day behind each other. These have fueled the “racist cop killer” narrative, applying more pressure to an already strained relationship between police and the black community.
I don’t know the cops that used deadly force though, so I can’t call them racist. The details of the shooting aren’t even out, but if the videos are any indication, there’s a high likelihood of officer misconduct. That uneasy feeling is beginning to rise again. You can see it in people’s eyes. It’s an aura I haven’t felt since the Baltimore riots. Those are the worst, riots. There is no bigger display of barbarism than a riot, but they are a response to the use of force, whether or not those policemen’s actions were justified. Live by the sword, die by the sword. It’s a vicious cycle. Where do we begin to heal the relationship between the police and the community?
The police officer’s response to me this morning at the airport is a clear indicator that the healing process is a long way off. Any public figure or private individual that tells you anything different is either disillusioned, or bold-face lying.
So here’s what happened: When walking past the (white) police officer I said, “Hi” with a smile on my face. Immediately he gave a bewildered half smirk, shrugged his shoulder, looked down, shoved his hand in his pockets, mumble a barely audible greeting, and walked away like a dog with his tail between his legs.
That’s not the look of progress. Is that how we want our police officers to act, dejected and emasculated, fearful to assert themselves? On the contrary, we also don’t want our police offers to be tyrannical and oppressive grunts. How do we find an equilibrium, a middle? Is that even possible?
Honestly I don’t have the answer, but I do know that we need to ask questions and keep doing so until we do have one.
Do all police profile and target blacks? Sometimes, but I believe this is an anomaly, not the norm. To say that this is the norm would be equivalent to saying that all Islamic worshipers are radical. That simply is not the case. We do a disservice when we look at these things with such subjective tomfoolery.
Is police brutality the fault of the police? Yes. Does that tell the whole story though? No. The actual question we should be asking is, Is a violent police response solely the fault of the inflictor of violence, which in this case is the police?
If it is not the sole fault of the police then who, what, when, where, why and how else are responsible for violent police responses? This is typically where the thought process goes FUBAR. Cognitive dissonance on the part of the police and the black community is lacking, to say the least.
Who else is at fault? Does some of the fault fall on the black community? Does some of it fall on the media? I’d say yes to both of those. Black movies and music glorify questionable themes. For the purposes of this article I’d like to specifically focus on gangster culture. Black media glorifies the criminal elements within its community, and many blacks embrace it.
What is at fault? Certainly racial profiling is an issue, but wat else? The image portrayed by the black community is also at fault, the “gangster” image I aforementioned in the Who section. It is precisely that image and its embrace in the aggregate by the black community which predicates the “on guard,” fearful, and aloof attitude of police.
Where? Why do violent police responses occur predominantly in the black community, and not elsewhere? Again, image. I remember back in college my roommates and I had get-togethers. Good food and good times. Like most young 20-something males we were loud and rambunctious. The police came to our door on numerous occasions. Never was anyone arrested. Never was anyone beat. Never was anyone killed. We were all black. As a matter-of-fact, I am 100% positive that on college campuses across the United States black students DO get emotional and argumentative with police. These do not end in police violence or the use of deadly force.
Why? Location. The college campus environment does not carry with it the “gangster” imagery. Because of this we rarely see police responding violently. They aren’t “on guard.” Take the same situation that occurred on the college campus and put it in the black community, and the likelihood of police responding violently substantially increases.
When? Police violence against blacks has always been an issue. Nobody can forget the painful images of black protestors being sprayed with fire hoses and having police dogs let loose on them. Because of that history, police interaction with the black community will always need to be handled delicately as it is volatile. It’s important that as members of the black community we are aware of this, and it is equally important for the police and governmental powers to be aware of this, and act accordingly.
How? Relationship. Officers will need to make an effort to create a relationship with the neighborhoods they patrol. Likewise, the members of those neighborhoods must also make the effort to create a bond with the police. It is only through a healthy personal relationship that we can overcome our tragic history. As blacks, we also have to be aware of the imagery we embrace, and understand that it affects how others respond to us. We must do all we can to separate from any elements of our culture that promote criminal activity. While doing that we also need to be our community’s first responders, confronting problems as a group.
There’s a lot of work to be done. Before I wrote this piece I began to feel hopeless. Day after day, the dinosaur media continues to stoke the fire, churning the deep seeded despair that haunts the black community. I believe they want both blacks and whites to feel hopeless, but there is hope. We can, we ought to, and if we work hard enough we will find harmony. Before we can point the finger and proclaim unfounded generalities though, we must exhibit cognitive dissonance and question everything.