Saturday, December 6, 2014

Who Is in Danger?

The bitter divisions within the nation over how to respond to the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner are not going to be easy to heal. For many people, this issue is not just political, it is deeply personal. And it stems from the following two realities:
1. Being a police officer is dangerous. Your work can place you in life threatening situations, some anticipated, some not. Every person who has a police officer in their family worries about them coming home safely. That is real. And those who know and love police officers empathize with the life and death decisions they have to make on the job and hope they make the one that allows them to live another day
2. Being a Black Male in the United States is dangerous. Many people fear you strictly on the basis of your appearance, and law enforcement officials in a wide variety of settings view you as a potential criminal and a threat. Your family members and loved ones understand this and hope you return safely from encounters with the police, which are more and more likely to happen given the vast expansion and militarization of police forces as a result of the War on Drugs and the War on Terror.
How to reconcile these two realities, is, to put it mildly, a challenge.
I will say this. People choose to be police officers, knowing the dangers. People do not choose to be Black Males. They are saddled with the dangers because of the accident of birth, and the weight of America's unhappy racial history.
I look forward to a time when policing will be less dangerous, and being a Black Male will not be dangerous at all
In the meantime, we are in in pain, and at one another's throats.