This week has been hard look at the American condition and violence on people of color is unacceptable, seems like every year we are faced with an ugly look under carpet where hatred and bias sit stirring just below the surface. At first glance it all seems clear cut 1+1=2 . But if we are honest 1+1=2 rarely adds up meaning there is always more to the story. Social media brings us instant info and opinions it’s always just one side to the story, and we are a people of reaction and not actual action. Quick to blame, ready to judge not really that different from a lynch mob, a sea of people giving instant knee jerk reaction to what we see and hear, my self included.
We look for people to blame, blame the police they are full of hate and out of control. Blame poverty that separates out our society into economic groups. Blame the bad guys for creating so much violence on the streets. Blame racism for pitting one group against another so on, and so on. On the surface our blame is justified seems easy, our outrage is clear and fair, but there is more to everyones story it’s never as cut and dry. As a father to a black child I instantly relate every time a story of a black kid being shot wearing a hoodie, or a routine traffic stop turns into another black man dead for no reason, and I’m there in the anger and in the rage of the situation. What I’m feeling is just a taste of the fear that African American father and mothers have been feeling for hundreds of years, and as much as I think I get it, I have no idea the depths and lengths that African Americans have been wronged.
My father was a police officer in Oklahoma City starting out first as a patrolman, then later made his way up the ladder to detective. He is a man who does not see people for who they are but judges the on surface. I remember as a kid I wanted long hair and earring something my father was strongly against. Long hair and men with earrings were how the trouble makers he encountered on the streets looked. Everyday he dealt with people lying to him about what they were doing, making up stories to try to out smart or skirt getting in trouble. Answering domestic violence calls and because it’s not as often a police officer is showing up to the nicer neighborhoods to check in on bad situations. It’s normally the lower income parts of the city that the police end up spending more of their time day in and day out. So that bias sets in because the groups they have to interact with look and act aparticular way, right or wrong. While being a police office may have started with noble intentions if you had to deal with the things they deal with on the job everyday you would be pretty worn down as well. Does that justify bad treatment of people of color? Absolutely not! There is no excuse for it, But it’s a job thats impossible to do without problems occurring.
We have to remember a policeman is someone's Job, they have a life a wife and kids. They will have the same pressures you and I have, good days and bad days. In my company I have had to work in customer service and it only take me two hours of answering peoples angry emails to start not liking that 14 year old privileged kid on the other end complaining about a hole in a t-shirt. Some of you work in customer service and you have had people do crazy things over very small issues. My wife worked for Disney driving boats at Epcot and had a large women actually hit her, at freakin Disney? She worked the front desk at a hotel and had a man tear up a bill for room porn and throw it in her face. Here is my point, if you have a bad day at your job you get a pretty big pass, if you fail at your job you get multiple chances. I screw up all the time doing my job and I’m lucky that only a small portion of my screw ups are noticeable. But we are a policed society for good and bad reasons. We ask armed men and women to keep our streets calm, to protect our homes and businesses. You have never felt more relief seeing that police lights at your house when you thought someone was breaking in. And at the same time have police lights in your rear view mirror while driving, your scared and nervous. We love and loath the Police all at that the same time.
It’s a broken system with multiple layers of flaws, when it comes to our taxes we don’t really want to pay them. We like the idea of public schools, Fire departments, and police but when it comes to voting season our respect for these institutions that help our city “goes out the window". We vote down pay increases for our schools but expect high quality teaching. We vote down budgets to add more supplies to our class rooms but are always out raged when we sit in a parent teacher conference and expect the school to have more for our kids. We want premium police protection but try to discount it with who we vote for in our local communities. We expect Million dollar services but only agree to give our pennies to pay for it.
Later in my fathers career he was promoted to be head of the police academy, and on multiple occasions tried to talk me into becoming an officer (boy he did not understand his son very well). There were many times when the city was desperate for more officers to make it through the academy they would cut the requirements to speed up new recruits. He would complain all the time how some of these new officers needed more training, but the city had cut a program to train the officers on some situation he knew they needed. The job is complicated and we need better training, deeper training, we can blame funding and how it’s allocated. We can see how like a soldier coming back from war there are traumatic situations that tear down the men and women in that job, and so we need better counseling. I remember when I was teenager I was standing in line and a mother who was struggling to get her kid to listen to her, used calling a police officer as a threat to control her child. So we have built up a vision of the police as being the boogyman.
Bad people live and work around us thats just a fact, we all know someone we work with or have an interaction with who should not be in the job they are in. They are bad at their job and make other people in that same job look bad. For every bad police officer story there are many good stories. For every bad teacher who did a poor job there are many other teachers that went the extra mile and helped save a child. It’s just not a simple thing, we ask men and women to carry weapons, to use restraint and deadly force and to be perfect all at the same time. Is there a higher standard for police? Of course there is! Should bad officers be weeded out? Yes absolutely!
We can blame our school systems that let kids at risk fall through the cracks. We expect a child in Trauma to just over come their situation and be a productive member of society. We blame the American Family how it’s so quick to break down with more then 50% of marriages ending in divorce. We can blame Job creation and how we have allowed American corporations to ship jobs overseas to be able to sell cheap goods in Walmart, so jobs become hard to find and the financial strain pushes people on the fringe to make money anyway possible.
Lastly we can blame the Church, for simply not doing its job. That ole African idea that it takes village to raise a child is so true, there has to be a safety net to catch people when they fall through the cracks. That job falls to the church! I say all the time if your tired of welfare and social programs being run by the government then look to the church for failing society and not doing it’s job. Forcing our government to step up and try to do it poorly. Christianity has become just a word for a voting group and church has become what you do on Sunday mornings. People need God! People need Jesus and we hear that phrase all the time. But our churches are in such financial debt to build bigger more state of the art facilities to entertain people that the church can’t live up to it’s financial responsibility to create community outreach for people at risk. So society rages out of control because the modern church pick and chooses its faith, by inward living not outward. With very little man power put to tackle these problems of society because men and women of faith are just to busy to do any long lasting volunteering. People pushed to the fringes are left to deal with life any way possible, and the Church judges them for it.
I recently witnessed this example over July 4th in my home town of Edmond. It was pointed out to me by someone that they thought some women was living in her car in the cities park. To understand what a crime that this is possible in Edmond Oklahoma you would need to understand that Edmond is that white flight safe suburbia town. There is a church on every corner, seriously a church every few feet some across from each other. 85% of the people in Edmond Identify as Christian and say they go to church somewhere in the city. Yet the Christians let this homeless women live in her car because she to crazy to help, and it's too complicated.
But nothing I have said justifies the shooting of our citizens. Police brutality is out of control and needs to be stopped. A black man should not lose his life for a tail light being out. We as a people cannot let these events pass without a word. But we also have to understand how deep the problem is and it’s a society reflection on ourselves. To change it will take a change from the inside out. We all have a role to play and it’s going to require all of us doing our part. It will take paying more for our public services, it will take us reaching out to people who are different from us, from the other side of town. It will take more community out reach with more engagement. It will take the Church stepping up being a safety net to effect the future change. It will take better governing of our police academies and training practices. It will take the ejection of rouge officers who are failing new standards and practices when it comes to our citizens. It will take us doing more with each other, helping break down the barriers that separate us and Loving our neighbor as ourselves.