From slavery to the Civil War to Reconstruction to the KKK to the Greenwood Massacre to an American President calling Haiti and Africa “shit-hole countries,” a subset of white Americans remain determined to keep n_ _ _ _ _ _ in their place!
Naïve white Americans like me are astonished to learn that, a century and a half after emancipation, blatant violent attacks on black people are far from uncommon. Amidst worldwide riots over police officer Derek Chauvin’s murder of George Floyd, it is unbelievable to see a white Atlanta patrolman, Garrett Rolfe, shoot an unarmed black man, Rashard Brooks, in the back, twice! The video is clear. From tapping on the window of Brooks’s vehicle, to Brooks passing sobriety tests but barely failing a breathalyzer, officer Rolfe had determined to cuff this black man. Would a white-skinned Brooks, blowing a paltry .026 over the limit, be alive today? Hell yes! Rolfe may have assured the culprit got safely home.
George Floyd’s and Rashard Brooks’s murders break my heart. They’re horrible! I hate it! Black Americans should not live in fear of law officers. This said, without policing a civil society cannot exist! “Aye, there’s the rub.”*
Policing in America cries out for fundamental overhaul. Derek Chauvins and Garrett Rolfes have no place in law enforcement, but we must take care not to throw out the baby with the bath water! While minds wiser than mine must hammer out the policeman’s and policewoman’s restructured role, three issues are obvious. First, American “Justice” weighs heavily in favor of affluent and favored Caucasians. Check out the ethnicity and skin color of our prison populations. Non-whites may or may not commit proportionately more crimes but they are damn sure more often arrested, convicted and imprisoned. Second, use of deadly force by police must be stringently curtailed. Third, while managing people is a significant part of a law officer’s job, far too often policemen and policewomen are called on to make mental health related decisions. Perhaps ironically, few things would make a police officer’s life easier than being free to chase Bad Guys while physicians, counselors and sociologists tend to the mentally ill, the addicted, the down-and-out. America’s mental illness system is woefully, shamefully underfunded. Money saved in reduced policing, and more, should be spent on mental health research and treatment.
In the end, while Black Experience may refute it I have to believe that despite the Derek Chauvins and Garrett Rolfes, the huge majority of American lawmen and lawwomen are out there doing the right thing, slugging it out in the trenches, performing the dangerous, complex, essential jobs most Americans could not or will not do. For every bad cop ninety-eight are:
- responding to a 2 a.m. domestic violence call
- searching for a nine-year-old who didn’t come home from school
- collecting blood-soaked evidence at a murder scene
- pulling victims from a burning vehicle
- pursuing an erratic driver
- entering a school to confront an active shooter
- executing a search warrant
- keeping an eye on a school bus stop
- coaching T-ball
- rescuing ducklings from a sewer
- at 3 a.m. holding a damp cloth on the forehead of a five-year-old with a 102° fever
- fielding and running the bases
- singing in the choir
- cutting the lawn
- trimming the hedge
- washing the car
- rescuing a kitten from a tree
- tearing up at his daughter’s wedding
I say again, got a problem? Call a cop.