First, let’s make it clear, I am a black woman or African American, whichever phrase you want to use to identify me with, but I know who I am.
I am all for law and order, people need to be held accountable for whatever wrong that they’ve committed, and they need to be held accountable no matter what Race, Creed, National Origin, or Sexual Orientation, or whatever way they identify themselves. If you commit a crime against another human being and you are caught and arrested, you need to be held accountable. This goes for whoever you are, but it is especially true if you have been given the honor to protect and serve a community. This trust is given to us as Law Enforcement Officers upon taking their oath.
I clearly remember taking that oath on the day of my graduation from the police academy, and I also remember the day I took the oath when I joined the United States Army. I was filled with pride in both instances. I wanted to protect and serve to, dare I say it, be a role model. I was honored to take my place in a long line of service in my family, especially on my grandmother’s side.
That is why seeing what happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis, was shocking on every level. My eyes could not believe how an Officer could treat another human being that way. It was not until I had seen the video a few times that the race of those two individuals registered to me, and what I knew was going to come next. Rage — unfiltered and unforgiving rage. Damnation for a profession that I had chosen to work in for all the right reasons. So, I thought here we go again, but this time it was going to be worse than before.
And my before was, Los Angeles 1992, the King Riots, and protests. I remember seeing a clip on the news one night, after several days of protests and riots, with what seemed like thousands of people in the street and Marvin Gaye’s song, “What’s Going On” was playing in the background. The words of that song are my anthem, helping me get through what was happening then and what is happening now. Is history repeating itself? Have we not learned how to treat our fellow human beings? Can we enforce laws and still help people keep their dignity? I heard one commentator on the news say that law enforcement officers are the Judge, Jury and Executioner. That is not what we want to be. I do not wake up wanting to be that and, in my heart, I do not believe any of my fellow brothers and sisters want to be that either. I want our other judicial partners to do their job so we can make the system work the way it is intended, not the broken-down hot mess it has become.
Another article stated that we, the Police, are asked to do too much. I certainly can get behind that statement! We cannot be the answer to every ill that society faces on a daily basis. We should not be called because your child cannot get their butt up to go to school on time. That is a parenting issue not a police issue. We cannot be called because your roommate will not give up the remote — seriously! When I was in the military as a Military Police Officer, we would joke that MP stood for Multi-Purpose. They would expect us to do everything at that time seemingly just like now. I feel that I am the therapist, the mediator, hell, even the parent on calls that I have responded to. I cannot solve everyone’s problems, contrary to popular belief. What I want to do is focus on catching those individuals who are breaking the law, preying on innocent victims, who show no remorse whatsoever. Those are the individuals I want to focus on to bring the best case forward for prosecution. That is my job and I am good at it!
Black experiences, as experiences of all ethnic groups, are not monolithic. I hope everyone who joins the protests and posts on Facebook, Instagram, or any other social media platform, keeps this in mind. To be an ally does not mean encouraging destruction, it means taking the time to understand it. To be an ally does not mean “being” (taking) the voice of the voiceless, it means listening to those voices and evolving your thinking. To be an ally does not mean hating cops, it means educating yourself on police brutality and using your privilege, education, resources, and what have you, to change it. Putting that all together how do we do that?
Maybe do not call the cops if you see a black man in a hoodie minding his own business. Maybe check your bias and do not cross to the other side of the street if you see a black man walking in your direction. Smile and say hello. Maybe do not distort the pain and suffering of a group of people to feel “woke”. Maybe do not generalize and expect all people of color to react to this situation in the same way. Maybe join a police department to enact change from within. Maybe do not tell people who are Black how to feel if you are not Black — we are all people with different experiences and opinions. Obviously, it is not a comprehensive list, but the reality is no amount of donating and flashy social medial posts are going to enact change if we do not start treating people with respect. And that goes for my colleagues in uniform, don’t expect because you wear a uniform, that you don’t still have to work at gaining the respect of the people in the community that you serve and protect. We are all in this together, we need to start acting like it or we will be doomed to repeat this failure again.
In closing I will leave you with a paraphrase from the song: Mothers are crying, Brothers are dying, we need to bring more understanding here today, so talk to me, so we can see what’s going on.