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“Racism isn’t getting worse, it’s getting filmed.” ~ Will Smith
There’s a meme floating around: “No one hates a bad cop more than a good cop.”
I have no idea who conjured this, but it rubs me the wrong way.
I “get” the point, but here’s the thing: If you are a “good” cop, but you tolerate, dismiss, or say nothing when a colleague displays his or her racist views via words and/or actions, big or small, public or private, then are you still a “good” cop?
If we shake our heads in disdain, but keep our mouths shut for fear of “not fitting in” or “making waves,” in any job we do, in any social situation, then we are indeed part of the problem—not the solution.
This goes for all of us. We are all part of the problem, not the solution, when we sit back and stay quiet out of fear. When we are mute bystanders to racial slurs, jokes, actions, and “spoken out loud thoughts, off the cuff,” we propagate racism.
I have a big mouth on social media. I’ve been “unfriended” for my views. I’ve engaged in keyboard wars over political and social issues, and I’ve been outright threatened by strangers. I am 100 percent wrong sometimes, but I am never quiet.
Remember when priests were molesting little children and no one said or did anything to stop it? Remember how many years it took to expose the “bad” ones and bring some degree of justice to the people affected by years of cover-ups and evidence of systems in place for hiding the problem? Remember how protected priests were from accountability and how that protection required hoards of others keeping quiet and falling into line? Remember how the “good” priests had to join forces and cooperate with the investigators of these crimes before any real change could take place?
Changing the narrative of the issue of police brutality in America will take that type of unified approach. Police officers and departments who “check” one another, who dismantle racist views at the roots and call each other out is how the issue of police brutality begins to change. “No justice, no peace” requires everyone.
Because silence kills. Silence is complicity.
To be very clear: I fully support and respect police officers. I am grateful for them and the work they do. They put their lives on the line to serve and protect our communities. What they see and deal with every day is unpredictable and unimaginable.
We must help them do their jobs. They are human beings with real human emotions doing a job that is physically and psychologically exhausting, day in and day out. When putting their lives on the line is added to that equation, it’s not just a job anymore, folks. It takes strong, resilient people to do what’s required to actually protect others in the heat of the moment while upholding and respecting the rights of suspects and perpetrators.
But, people of color are being unfairly targeted, unlawfully detained, and mistreated. Unarmed people are dying. Currently, our nation is erupting once again. Years of social and racial injustice are once again bubbling up and over. It’s spilling into the streets, and now everyone has an opinion. Let the keyboard wars begin again.
The cop who killed George Floyd had 18 prior “infractions” and complaints against him. Somewhere along the way, those in his department (as well as his supervisors) knew he was not fit to serve in the field.
I support good cops. I support community helpers. I support those who put their lives on the line to protect me. And they need our support now, more than ever, because they still have to go to work. Do good cops make mistakes? Yes, they sure do. But not like this one.
Enough is enough. I support police officers, and I support the promotion of racial justice in our society. Yes, I can do both. Yes, both can coexist.
Riots may very well be “the language of the unheard” (Martin Luther King Jr.), but truly, they solve nothing. They simply leave more wounds, more scars, more pain, more anger, and more messes to clean up. It has been nearly 30 years since people took to the streets of Los Angeles in a burning rage for six days straight when a police officer was acquitted in a court of law after unlawfully beating Rodney King. It, too, was caught on tape, but nothing has changed. It is not the job of the communities who are being burned and looted to fix this problem. It is our job.
Speaking up (even when we’re afraid of rocking the boat), advocating for equality at every closed gate, holding each other accountable for our words and our actions, and ostracizing those who demonstrate patterns of racism (via criminal acts and on other levels large and small) are things we can do collectively and daily to fight blatant and covert racism in our country.
Joining the fight doesn’t require “caught on camera” footage.
And I won’t be quiet about it.