Sunday, August 17, 2014

A police officer and a black man

My brother is a police officer, I'm not sure all of you know that.  I'd call him a cop, but my parents never let us call police officers cops, they found it to be disrespectful.  So, he's a police officer.   He is also the father of six kids, a marine, and an ex seminarian. And I fear for his life...all.the.time.  His job is hard. Last year, we had a falling out, it lasted a few months, we didn't really talk. He called a few times, but I hate talking on the phone and I REALLY hate talking on the phone in conflict, so I put off returning the calls.  But then, I was driving down the highway and I passed a police officer.  And I thought of my brother and his job, and the uncertainty of his safety because of what he does. I called him that night. I called because it hit me that because he is a police officer, in a very real way he puts his life at risk. He responds to calls of domestic violence, and to random traffic stops with unstable people. He is called in for robberies and walks into danger on the regular. Oh yea. And he gets paid crap. We hear often and regularly how teachers are underpaid, in our city, the starting salary for a cop was less than 35k. It's pretty amazing when you think about it.

My husband is an African American man. We are a mixed family with three adorable little mixed babies. And I don't fear for his life. Ever. I asked him, the other day, if he ever felt physically in danger because of his race, his answer was no. He also was never really in trouble. Aaron went to Detroit public schools, but his parents were intentional, so he attended a school of choice. His parents are married, he is educated and he would tell you he has never faced one closed door because of his race.  And I guess I should note a few things, like that I get the generation before us faced terrible persecution because of their race. I get that we live in michigan, and although sometimes racially divided, for the most part people get along just fine.  People have given us looks, and, in Aaron's past, a couple people were creeps to him because of his skin color... But his life has never been threatened. Because he was black.  Aaron doesn't fear for his life as a black man.

I guess I just wanted to remind you of that. The "don't shoot" story that proclaims police just like to kill black men is deeply, deeply flawed. It's an insult to members of law enforcement, it's an insult to my brother. And sure, there is an abuse of power sometimes, I've met my fair share of police officers who need to prove the size of their gun...but I'm doubtful there exists even a handful who are out to kill black kids.

So, as the story of Ferguson continues to be told, as the facts continue to come to light- I'd be careful about the things you say, post, repeat and believe. Because you just might be forgetting the ones who truly take risks, you might be re-telling a narrative that's just not true.


Jennifer Buckley said...
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Sarah said...

Thank you so so much for having the courage to say all of this. My neighbor (African American male) has said so many of the exact same things. He stayed out of trouble, and trouble never found him. Those of us that engage in risky behaviors, tend to get the brunt of the risky results. Exceptions? Most obviously, just like in everything. But my heart cries out to me, that this just isn't one of those. My husband is a firefighter and has been experiencing some nasty treatment because of this situation- and all from those who he would HAVE to help if they needed. Makes me so sad.

Theresa said...

I really appreciate you sharing your point of view on this. I've stayed out of the debate on this one, but I really like what you had to say.

Hafsa said...

This is such an explosive topic and I applaud you for writing it. I'm mixed on it, I come from a very poor family and two of my immediate family members have or are serving prison sentences. I grew up coming in very close contact with police officers and it left me with very negative feelings towards them. On the other hand, my husband's best friend (and a surrogate brother to me) is a police officer and that has changed my opinion drastically. Not to mention other circumstances that have changed my view. There are so many factors involved that it's just so confusing. I'm in favor of police officers doing their job of protecting and upholding the law certainly. I don't know, too crazy to really expand on.

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