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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Support Police or Acknowledge Racial Bias?

It's not a secret that I believe there is racial bias in our police culture.  But I've realized something. People assume that since I acknowledge the problem, I am against the police. Or that I'm talking-down, disrespecting, or generalizing and therefore not being fair to police officers.

And I've seen my Facebook feed start to have hashtags like #supportthepolice. And I don't see them show up next to hashtags like #blacklivesmatter.

Social Media is so divisive. It reduces us from thinking, feeling, nuanced, beautiful human beings to "sides" and "slogans" that don't truly express how we feel about important issues.

Y'all. It does not have to be either or. I support my police! I love them - I am so thankful for them and I want them to feel respected for the important jobs they do.  Acknowledging there is a problem does not mean that I suddenly am a police-hater who wants them all to be fired. Nor does it mean that I believe every individual police officer is a racist who enters the force with the goal to shoot as many black males as possible.  That is ridiculous. And saying that you support the police does not mean that you believe every black male is a criminal and deserves to be shot. That is equally ridiculous.

Yet this is what I am seeing happening. We are forced to either fall into the camp of "black lives matter" OR "I support our police officers".

You know what I say? "Black lives matter AND I support our police officers."

We need a new hashtag. (you are welcome to laugh at me right now considering I'm still not entirely certain how exactly to use hashtags and still feel strongly they should be called pound signs). Something like:
#issuesarenuancedjustlikepeopleandIsupportmypoliceforceandcallforgreateraccountabilitybecauseblacklivesmatter.
Too long? Thought so.

The best thing we can do right now is to listen to one another.

Are you outraged about all you've been hearing about the shootings of young, unarmed, black males? Good, you should be. Now talk to some police officers. Real ones, in your life. Listen to what they have to say. Find out what it's like to be a police officer. And then learn what kind of training they receive. Be an ally to your police: find out how you can support your local police force to get better. Support them and help them learn how to overcome any racial bias instead of tearing them down.

Are you frustrated that police officers are being given a bad name? Good, you should be. Now go listen to some people of color. Hear their experiences with police. It may not match up with yours. That is okay, they are still valid. Listen to the people who say their voices aren't being heard. Believe them when they say they fear the police won't treat them fairly. And support them: find out how you might be able to bridge the gap between them and the police. Be an ally to the minority population, especially if you have connections in law enforcement.

And pray for each other. Pray for the group you understand the least.  Don't understand why people are angry? Pray for them. Pray for wisdom that you will understand their anger. Don't understand why it is hard for some people to see and acknowledge racial bias? Pray for them and pray for understanding yourself.  Prayer is crazy. I really think when we pray for others, it changes our own hearts and amazing things can happen.

Read the full story behind this hug here:
 http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2014/11/post_495.html#incart_story_package
This sweet 12 year-old spoke to this police officer and shared his fears that he wouldn't be treated fairly by police. The police acknowledged his fears by saying, "I know. I'm sorry. I'm sorry." And the hug happened.

THAT IS WHAT WE NEED. 

Listen, and then Hug, y'all.

Let's stick together on this. You don't have to choose a side. But you can choose to be part of the solution.

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