Thursday, March 26, 2009

Two Wrongs Don't Make A Right!

White cop kills an unarmed black man in the subway:

Black man kills 4 police officers in a shootout:

What is the common factor between these two scenarios? The commonality is that they display the inherently evil actions of individuals. Another thing that they do is promote a negative stereotype of the group as a whole. Now that is a problem for everybody.

The thing about these incidents between the police (rather select members of the “police”) and minority communities(specifically the black community), is that they are actions taken by individuals that end up reflecting poorly on a whole institution or a whole racial group. The thing about the responses coming from certain voices in the groups to which these individuals belong is that they rarely address the problem with the situation at hand (i.e. individual culpability). Instead they choose to shift blame or make excuses for the incident or individual by pointing out the past faults of those in the other group (usually prefaced with “what so and so did was wrong, but …). Such knee jerk reactions are unproductive, to say the least.

If cops are not willing to call out the bad elements in the police departments throughout this nation, then they are promoting a climate where agents of the state are not protecting and serving all law abiding people. The message basically becomes, it’s ok if agents of the state brutalize and murder certain segments of society (no matter how nonthreatening or innocent they are) because, hey…they’re all criminals anyway. The same thing goes for minorities (African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, etc) who want to give dangerous criminals a pass (when it is clear that they are in the wrong), because they don’t want to help the police in any capacity. Never mind that it is those same criminals that make our communities unsafe and unpleasant places for good law abiding folk to live.

A cop murders an unarmed man (age doesn’t seem to matter these days) in cold blood, all police lose a little more credibility with the communities that they are supposed to protect. It is hard to protect a community that will not work with you because it fears you and sees you as a large part of the problem. A criminal (who happens to be black) decides he’s going to have a shoot out with police in broad day light (ending up killing 4 officers), reflects badly on all minorities (no matter what their station in life is). The whole community from which that criminal hails gets lumped into one big category labeled “Dangerous Threat”. That categorization (no matter how unfair) seems to be the natural response of many an individual in law enforcement, and that just ends up putting all of us non-white law abiding citizens (especially the male portion) at greater risk.

We have to weed out the bad elements among us. In order to do that we all have to be honest with ourselves and take a hard look at our communities and precincts, and create a climate wear their actions will no longer be tolerated. Its time we look at Oscar Grant and those four police officers, and declare what happened to them as simply wrong in the strongest possible terms with out any qualifiers or shifting of blame. That, I believe, is the way to progress and hopefully reconciliation between the community and the police.


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