Normally, on a Sunday, I’d be doing a Year of Accountability post, but seeing as it’s been a rough week for a lot of people, it just didn’t sit right with me.
As a white male, I have privilege. Privilege I cannot always recognize and see. As a graduate of the McDaniel Equity in Excellence program, I expanded my ability to recognize my privilege and the spaces where it flexes its muscles – both literally and figuratively. I cannot sit here and simply say “I understand what my fellow black and brown citizens of the United States are going through”.
Because I can’t. I can witness it. I can empathize. I can feel frustration for them and anger at the system that willfully allows such actions to occur, time and time again. My own frustration comes from the feeling of being limited in how to respond. I am not in a place to go out and protest, and while talking and sharing facts and support online is something, it doesn’t always feel like something. It is hard to be an ally when you feel like you cannot do anything to help.
Normally, I would bring up these issues in my school’s social justice program – our Student Diversity Leadership Team – but with distance learning coming to a close, this limits my ability to work with my students in this regard. 2020 has been a solid 1-2-3 series of blows to our communities and families, to our sense of ‘normalcy.’
But if it is normal for African American men and women to be murdered in their own neighborhoods, their own cars, their own homes, by police, in situations where their white neighbors would not, is normalcy what we want?
We can either push forward, or fall back. I’m honest in saying that I don’t have answers, just some half formed ideas. I’m not an expert in community organizing or reforming the police department, but I have some thoughts that may, or may not, be useful. Starting with this one simple idea.
- Stop letting police officers fired for misconduct get jobs in neighboring precincts.
As a teacher, if I get fired for misconduct, my teaching certificate gets yanked. No more teaching. I have to jump through hoops to get it again. I can’t roll into the county next door and get a job. Why can these officers? If places in our country continue to operate in a ‘three strikes you’re out’ – shouldn’t we hold police to a higher standard? One strike – you’re out, and obviously not fit to be a police officer.
I have other ideas. None of which will solve the problem – there’s no ‘solving’ this. There is mitigating and reducing and building community relationships.
- Require officers to live in the jurisdiction they work in.
- Require “walk alongs” with members of the community for all officers. Monthly.
- Remove long-rifled and shotgun weapons from cruisers.
- Promote foot patrols rather than armored cruisers.
- Rotate officers through schools, neighborhoods, community centers, ERs.
Most importantly of all, I think the best idea is to listen to what others, with better ideas, have to say. Listen, follow through, listen again.
Stay safe out there, wear your mask.