Walk In Our Shoes

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Conflict and confrontation between police and communities of color is historic, based on racism, and has very deep roots. Maltreatment of African-Americans by police .over centuries is so systemic that many police organizations don't recognize the behavior as aberrant or abhorrent. On the flip-side, regardless of how or why the circumstances have evolved, police have the daunting task of battling crime and keeping order. For the sake and survival of civility and democracy there must be communication - and resolution.

Submitted: November 03, 2016

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Submitted: November 03, 2016



An attempt to mitigate the angst between police and some communities they serve might begin by the parties remembering they are both parts of the same whole. Police must recognize that some members of the neighborhoods they patrol are routinely mistreated and disrespected - sometimes maimed and killed - by fellow officers.This is inescapably true.


Citizens must appreciate the critical role police fulfill to protect and serve. At their best, law enforcement keeps the peace, protects people and property, investigates crime, and although it's not written in their job descriptions, address myriad duties and responsibilities on behalf of society - usually undignified tasks - that they're neither contractually paid to do nor given proper thanks for.


However, cops must also recognize the historic brutalization of people in communities of color and the resentment and emotional scars these people carry, on top of the very real maltreatment they continue to experience. After all, it was scarcely two generations ago that a vicious, legal apartheid (Jim Crow) system replaced a legal - and very, very inhumane - system of slavery four generations before that.


In my own memory, as a child, the image of sheriff Bull Connor in Alabama and his legion of vicious deputies and dogs, employing fires hoses and raw brutality against entire communities of innocent Black folk is seared into my psyche. For most of our four century history in America “Law Enforcement” has been anathema to people of color, justifiably so. Fear and loathing of police among African Americans has literally been beaten into us.


The horror of frequent beat downs, harassment and berating of people of color by police, who in the not-too-distant past, operated as the official strong arm enforcers of America's overtly racist system, not surprisingly, continues to cause paranoia for citizens of color when encountering law enforcement today because the culture that facilitated such harsh treatment by police was never completely dismantled.


To people of color the Jim Crow practices of yesteryear seem more like yesterday because between then and now bullying by police in too many communities has been unrelenting. Though no longer 'official', there does appear to be a de facto, systemic, perhaps nostalgic, behavior by some officers to impose policies and tactics to keep people of color 'in their place' like in the good ole days "when America was great."


Moreover, prior to the Emancipation Proclamation President Lincoln signed in 1865, African-Americans endured a 250 year holocaust of slavery in America at the hands of whites. Many of the pathologies prevalent among the poorest African American communities in America today are the direct result of 400 years of unrelenting, unimaginably hellish treatment at every turn.


This is compounded by contemporaneous poverty and substandard education and living conditions as bad as any of this planet’s most destitute 3rd world countries. Currently, with roughly one-in-eight African Americans over age 60 - more than 5 million - are old enough to recall the 'white only' culture of their early youth. 


Conversely, a large contingent of the 'overseers' of the Jim Crow system, who enjoyed their 'white only' stature and privileges, are still with us now. Theirs’ and their children’s generation control many of the country's contemporary levers and institutions of power and appear to be re-emerging from the shadows to reassert their politics openly - and vociferously – after several decades of operating on the relative down-low during the post-civil rights era. 


These include economic institutions and policies that translate to dire conditions in the darkest, poorest neighborhoods, and too often, over-aggressive police organizations. Instead of being treated with any degree of dignity in our own neighborhoods, dark people tend to be treated with contempt.


At the same time, regardless of why, police face the most daunting and dangerous job of maintaining order and battling crime at the neighborhood level in many urban centers. Most are probably courteous, professional and well-intended. 


Unfortunately, however, too many ‘decent’ officers have circled the wagons and erected the blue wall of silence when faced with the dilemma of outing bad apples in their midst who commit excessive violence against citizens, or condone the offenses of those officers by keeping silent.


Ironically, this behavior attributed to police officers is tantamount to the stop snitching ethos prevalent in many high crime communities of color where most instances of excessive force by police are alleged. The police and the policed trade counter-charges that lack of cooperation from witnesses and others knowledgeable of prosecutable offenses impede justice.


Killing police?The act, or even the thought, of killing innocent police as payback for real or imagined violence perpetrated by a particular cop is just as repugnant as a cop abusing the authority of his shield by victimizing and terrifying a citizen. Anarchy is not an option. Divided we fail.


Police officers are thoroughly woven into the fabric of our communities and usually do a thankless job, usually a dirty job, usually at relatively low pay - considering the risks. To which families do police officers belong? Our families.


They are sons and fathers, mothers and sisters, friends and neighbors, teammates and congregants. Most cops probably start their days with the earnest thought of who they might be able to help, and pray God will take them safely home to their loved ones at the end of their shift. 


It is no more fair to define every white police officer as a bigot than it is to define every person of color as a thug, and in cases where communities are legitimately protesting death or gross mistreatment of citizens attributed to police officers, it is still incumbent upon police agencies to respond strongly when protesters become violent, despite the original justification or motivation for protest. 


It is also true that cops – and this has been recently and very painfully demonstrated – in situations where marchers are actively protesting alleged mistreatment of citizens by police, and those marchers become threatened, will face down the prospect of death to fulfill their oath to protect and serve.


That is their job. While protest is a right, and has its place as a device for citizens en masse to make their displeasure known to government, it must not be lost on citizens that government, including police departments, belong to the people. 


After dissent has been expressed through protest, the time comes to sit down and hash out differences, where possible, to use the ballot box and not just the bully pulpit to impose the people's will over government and its institutions.That is empowerment… much more effective than marching alone.


Want justice? Look at the number of people attending rallies and protests. If the hands connected to all those feet pounding pavement were pulling voting levers - as well as waving placards - it would be much harder for justice to be denied. 


Want justice? Don’t ask for it, demand it from the government that we ultimately control – ostensibly - as citizens.  It’s not that easy, but it really is that damned simple. Ultimately, do we want to fight the power or become The Power?


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