I inhabit this space between two worlds. I have White police family members and friends. I have Black friends. I also have clients of all colors, with many careers. As a minister, I see good and evil as categories. As a therapist, I see, often, how good and evil start in family systems and in communities of addiction which taint judgement in so many was. Some of these are different. Some are the same.
Some basic assumptions, before I start:
- There is good and evil in the world.
- Police believe it is their job to keep evil people from the good people. This is a noble goal.
- Police often decide who they believe are good and those who are evil,
- Police are often called specifically to make that decision.
- Police officers believe in law and order. They see their job as enforcing the law and thus keeping order. They do not write the law, they enforce it.
- I suspect that that policing is also a numbers game. “Good” police are supposed to enforce the law so many times in a certain period to prove they’re doing their job.
- In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: The police, who investigate crime, and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders.
- In addition to that, there are lawmakers who decide what is crime and what isn’t crime.
- Because the system of policing and laws are made by human beings, there is the possibility of bad/evil laws made by bad/evil lawmakers.
- Because the system of police is made up of human beings, there is thBecause the system of policing and laws are made by human beings, there is the possibility of bad/evil laws made by bad/evil lawmakers.
- Because society is made up of human beings, any given member of society can be anywhere on the spectrum between good and bad.
- We have to live together.
Here’s where it gets muddy: If the good police are enforcing bad laws, are they really good police? Also, if there are bad police, and there are, are the police as a whole good?
Here’s what I know from my Black friends and life in the city:
- Most Black people are decent, kind, hardworking people. They just are.
- They go to church on Sundays, they believe in God. Those that don’t are deeply affected by those who do, because so many do.
- In addition, many people — Black and White — practice Islam. Islam, like Christianity, has a moral code at its base.
- In other words, Black people, like White people, are most often good, decent people who know right from wrong, and try to do right. This is my experience. From my perception, it is fact.
- Many (most?) White people don’t know, as friends, Black people. In short, they don’t actually know any Black people. This means that what they do know is based on media reports, rumors, myths, and stories about Black people, told or seen by White people.
Unknown to most White people, (because most White people don’t make laws) there’s a reason for this. The reason is because there were laws made so that Black people couldn’t live in the same area as Whites. In California, there were also laws made that said Asians couldn’t live with Whites. This type of lawmaking is known as “redlining”. Like everything else, it’s not based in actual experience of the Black community, because, as I said, the Black community is basically good, decent, hardworking people, who know right from wrong and try to live decent lives.
So, if police just enforce the law, and it’s a bad law, are they good or bad for doing their job? If White police have to make judgement calls about who is a criminal and who’s not, but all they know about Black people is what they’ve seen on TV, read about, or heard from other Whites, how can they even do their job? It’s a set-up, bound for failure.
So, this week, for the millionth time, White police officers enforced the law on a Black person they couldn’t know personally. For what seems to be the hundredth time this year, they killed or wounded that Black person. Is it any wonder?
There has got to be a better way to do this. Maybe it involves having police know the people they are policing. That means living in their communities, or maybe knowing Black people outside of work, or having Black police officers policing Black communities.
Maybe it involves less firearms (Brits don’t use guns, and they still have law and order. By firearms, I include tanks, armored vehicles, assault weapons, etc. Maybe the general society shouldn’t have as many firearms. Maybe we shouldn’t worship guns as what make us free.
Maybe it involves electing more lawmakers who actually know Black people in their daily lives and wouldn’t dream of separating people by color.
In any case, this can’t go on. Lack of understanding combined with bad laws can only lead to more chaos in our streets. Blaming problems on people you don’t know won’t solve anything. If you want peace and quiet, this isn’t the way to get it. Good people that we don’t know are getting killed, and they are sick of it, because they should be.
Resisting with Peace,