Cops: Reconciling the Two Halves of My Brain

"...And you want our marches peaceful. You want us calm. You want us quiet. Stop asking us to bite our tongues when we cannot guarantee our siblings'  safe passage to the corner store..." 

This is a stream of consciousness based on my rage over the last couple of days about the recent murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

Alton Sterling on the left and Philando Castile on the right. Photos courtesy of Creative Commons.

Alton Sterling on the left and Philando Castile on the right. Photos courtesy of Creative Commons.

Their names are added to a long list of brothers and sisters whose lives were senselessly cut short by racist cops or in the case of a Trayvon Martin, a cop-wannabe.

When someone asks me my opinion about cops, I am usually pretty tight-lipped. I don't generally have such good things to say about them. Instead I refer to N.W.A.'s song, "Fuck the Police!" No, I am not shy about my feelings. And why should I be?

History, current events and the experiences my friends and family have had when they have encountered the police haven't given me a reason to change my view of them.

But to paint them all with the same broad brush isn't fair or even appropriate.

The problem is, it isn't the cops themselves per se, but rather a system that promotes   violence against and the institutionalization of people of color (PoC). Speaking from   Warsaw yesterday, President Obama called on Congress to "adopt changes to the      criminal justice system, citing a series of statistics showing African-Americans and    Latinos are more likely than Whites to be questioned by police and incarcerated." He went on to say, [The deaths are] "symptomatic of the broader challenges within our     criminal justice system."

No shit, Sherlock!

First of all, did President Obama really need statistics to tell him that PoC are more likely to be questioned and incarcerated?

Politicians always call for change after a mass shooting or another brother or sister has had their life snuffed out by yet another racist cop—a cop raised by the system designed to keep people of color down. But as we all know, the change these politicians pontificate about is continually out of our grasp.

Forgive me, Mr. President while I roll my eyes because your words are, in my opinion, empty until the entire system is overhauled. Because you and members of congress are ignoring us, I know it will take more riots like the ones in Baltimore, the Los Angeles riots following the acquittal of the cops who beat up Rodney King, the Ferguson riots after the cops killed Michael Brown and The Watts Riots before real and permanent change takes place.

But again, unfair to paint using that broad brush.

This morning I came across this post from my cousin. It's a bit confusing to explain how we're related. Her husband, Jason O'Brien, is the son of my brother-in-law's sister. I just fall back on cousin. He is also a sergeant with the Los Angeles Police Department.

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Published with permission by Shannon L. O'Brien.

In response to a comment on her thread suggesting there needs to be understanding on both sides, Shannon responds by saying, "Understanding is needed on one side, not both sides. As black people we are bathed and cloaked in understanding racism. We have to in order to survive and get along. Those who are not bathed and cloaked in the experience of Black Perspective 101, yet police our neighborhoods, have a duty and higher obligation to understand us."

And Shannon's right. Jason is an exceptional cop: trustworthy, level-headed, conscientious, highly experienced and very well educated. On a personal level, he's a pure joy to be around.

He is also a Black man (well, Biracial but I believe he self-identifies as Black). He's a PoC living in a racist country where, according to the late Justice Antonia Scalia, racism is over.

We've all heard the monikers, "Angry Black Male," "Angry Black Woman," "You're playing the race card," "This is an isolated incident" and so and so has "a chip on their shoulder." These things don't happen in a vacuum. We have reason to be angry ... all the time. We have every reason to believe a routine traffic stop will result in an arrest, a beatdown or a parent burying their son or daughter prematurely. No, we aren't playing the race card ... this was the hand we were dealt.

Sometimes we're stupid enough to ask for sympathy. I will digress for a second. My friend Edie Weinstein posted a blog yesterday: "To My White Friends Who See Tragedy in the Black Community and Say Nothing, Make it Personal." Like the blogger, Kiara Imani Williams, I love White people. I love all White people. I love you if you're gay, straight, queer, transgender, Black, Asian, Latino, Hispanic, Native American and yes, White. I am half White. But I also get where Kiara is coming from.

As she points out, when we ask White people to speak up and be critical when tragedy strikes a PoC, many are silent (not all, in fact, my friends list is filled with very evolved and forward-thinking people of all races), oft times they make it personal.

Case in point, in the comments under Edie's posting of this blog, the very first one came from a friend of hers who did precisely what Kiara points out happens ... she personalized it.

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My reply: Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 3.09.23 PM

Okay, I'm back.

As Justice Sonia Sotomayor points out, “For generations, black and brown parents have given their children ‘the talk,’ ” she wrote, “instructing them to never run down the street; always keep your hands where they can be seen; do not even think of talking back to a stranger—all out of fear of how an officer with a gun will react."

What I think it all boils down to is this: there are some really good cops out there.     Shannon is married to one. My friend Cynthia is one and the husband of my friend Dawn is one. But again, the problem is more deeply rooted and insidious and one that can best be summarized in this video from Occupy Democrats. How to Respond When Someone Says, "All Lives Matter?"

"How many more must there be before you finally call this a genocide?"