**This isn’t your typical post. I just can’t right now. I understand if you decide to not read this post.**
My heart hurts.
I’ve been in a pretty hard funk since Tuesday when I found out about the murder of George Floyd by police officers. This came on the heels of a woman calling the cops on a black guy in New York. It’s the same funk I feel whenever an unarmed black man is murdered by the police.
It’s a funk fueled by studying the criminal justice system for the majority of my adult life and knowing that this has happened too many times in the past and will continue to happen. The only difference is that now I don’t have to face a classroom of criminal justice students while trying to teach through the funk. I don’t have to face a room full of students for many of whom the ultimate goal is to become a police officer. I don’t have to face a room full of students who just found out that yet again half of their classmates want to join a system who has systematically contributed to their deaths and oppression.
And yet… despite not being forced to do a great deal of emotional labor in the classroom. I’m still grieving for those students, their families, their friends. For once, I didn’t have to look at them and try to answer the question of “Why does this keep happening?” when we know exactly why. We know that racism continues to be a problem (and that word doesn’t seem strong enough) in our society. We know that the criminal justice system, of which the police are the primary gatekeepers and perpetrators of harm, disproportionately targets brown and black people. We know that privilege continues to be a problem as has been so starkly pointed out by a rash of white women calling the police on black people who they simply don’t like or white people protesting with guns at the Michigan state capitol because they want haircuts.
I wish I had the answer. The big thing here is that we absolutely must demand accountability for the actions of police officers. They are not above the law. Protesting, even violent, is an option that I’m happy to see exercised by people. Additionally, filming the police and being an active bystander is a reasonable approach. When folks in power know their being watched, they tend to follow the rules and ethics.
Until we realize that police officers are more interested in protecting the status quo than helping create positive change we won’t actually see change for the better. This can look like a lot of things, but not calling the police unless they are actually needed (in the case of an actual crime, for example) would be a good place to start. As a white person, you have the privilege of knowing that an encounter with the police won’t leave you dead or your kids taken away or with you evicted and homeless. The same cannot be said for black and brown people. So, try to use the common sense that your kindergarten teacher taught you and resolve your issues with other people with your words.
Another good place to start is by acknowledging the history of policing. Policing has never been about protecting and serving common people. It’s about protecting the property and capital of owners, ensuring that workers will be too afraid to come together and protest for fear of losing their livelihoods or lives. Modern American policing comes out our collective and combined history of slavery and capitalism. Early slave catchers evolved into police officers in the South. Who do you think kept those “unruly immigrants” working in poor conditions in the North?
I’m not going to keep lecturing here. Just realize that major societal level change is required for real change to happen. What are you willing to do to help?