Until We Cultivate Massive Change:
POLICE ARE THE ENFORCEMENT OF A SYSTEM BUILT FOR OPPRESSION
I realize without the swift actions of police officers, some extremely dangerous people would commit heinous acts of violence. I recognize there are a great number of children rescued from unspeakable acts of abuse and that police officers are often literal angels in their lives. I acknowledge the incredible toll it takes on a person to witness the dark side of humanity every day. I am grateful for courageous acts of well-meaning officers just trying to make a difference in the world and understand the intent behind their career choice. That being said: I‘d be lying if I claimed to be an avid supporter of the police.
All positive acts of service by law enforcement are completely invisible to a large portion of the public they are supposedly serving. While racism is pervasive in society, including law enforcement, the problem does not end there. Without massive change, the brave actions of good cops will remain lost in the dark shadow of an inherently flawed and unjust system.
The passion and emotion that is the power and drive behind recent BLM protests is fueled by so much more than systemic racism. Countless children are systematically punished for a situation they were born into through no fault of their own. The juvenile justice system and its lack of public service is not helping anyone. Children of broken homes, poverty, abuse and neglect are the money makers in a system that makes its profits out of suffering. These kids in desperate situations and act out in response to their pain and are then re-traumatized upon entrance. Nearly every one of them ultimately end up in a life of crime; institutionalized by the only stable home they’ve ever known. Alternative solutions are not offered or are just too little, too late. We lock them up in an environment of extreme violence which then forces them to rely on other abused and neglected children to teach them how to survive in a world that has shown them nothing but pain; a world they have learned is not to be trusted.
Most inmates in the prison system have children— perpetuating a learned fear of anyone in uniform; a uniform that is often interpreted by a child to be a symbol of the breakup of their family. They look at cops and think, “those people took away my mom or dad”, “those people ignored me when that kid jumped me in juvenile hall”, “those people shot and killed my brother”, “those people are the enemy”, and so on.
Millions of parents struggle to make ends meet to pay the outrageously high costs of phone calls made by a loved one inside in an effort for their kids to maintain some sort of relationship with their incarcerated mother or father. More often then not, the absence of one parent in these formidable years of childhood is due to a missed meeting with a probation officer resulting in a violation or minor drug offense. Overpriced items which should be considered to be basic necessities like pads or tampons add to the financial strain of the family (that is, if they are even fortunate enough to have family to support them.)
People are fed up when it is clear officers would rather have confrontations than conversations to resolve things; fed up with the militarization of police sending the message that the people are their enemy and they are prepared to go to war; fed up with feeling like they have to protect themselves in their own neighborhoods when they see army tanks driving down the streets they call home. So many families have to deal with the repercussions that go along with having spent time in the system. What is often a victimless crime or ultimately dismissed in court but wound up in the loss of a job or family member due to not being able to afford the cost of bail or adequate representation.
It takes a conscious effort to remember that not all who wear a uniform share the same mentality. People have lost all faith and trust in the system that was created to protect them. Hyped up media reports which exacerbate an us vs. them mentality and media that perpetuates racial tensions isn’t solving anything. Racism isn’t the root of the problem— it is exacerbated by a system that supports all kinds of injustice.
It’s been said that a nation can be measured by the way in which it treats its most vulnerable. Clearly, we have an enormous job to do. Applying this same measurement to law enforcement as a whole would massively cultivate change. Yes, there are a few bad apples. Yes, those apples spoil the bunch. The very worst actions of ANY active-duty officer are representative of ALL active-duty officers. To assume otherwise can literally cost you YOUR LIFE.
There is generational trauma with regard to injustice within the system itself —and police are seen as the enforcers of that broken system.