” Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” ~ Martin Luther King, JR.
After watching recent events in Ferguson, MO unfold on computer and television screens, I am shaken. I am shaken because of so many things, but the reality of continued racial disparity and prejudice in modern day America rattles me to the core.
As a white woman, I am certain that I cannot comprehend that reality fully, but I do not doubt its existence. I simply cannot fathom how people can be so hateful and so unequivocally misguided when it comes to individuals of a different race.
I cannot speak to the actual events leading to the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, as the facts are not all revealed. I am not sure that they ever will be. I cannot ignore the claims of that community, either, that racial profiling and misuse of power towards people of color has been a longstanding problem with local police forces.
Surely, the reactions of some in Ferguson were uncalled for. Criminal acts of arson and looting and terrorizing fellow citizens are not the way to right any wrongs that have occurred in that city. It is incumbent, though, on the authorities to react responsibly and not inflame situations further. There are many indications that the authorities actions were questionable on many fronts in Ferguson. Could they have avoided all the unrest? Hmmmm.
I believe that most police officers are professional and wise in their actions with the communities that they protect. I believe that they are often doing a thankless job where they are facing uncertain danger at every corner. The prevalence of guns on the streets makes it hard to know when anyone or any situation is safe.
I also know that black persons have less reason to respect the police than I do. I know many law abiding citizens who have been stopped for bogus reasons, where I have not. I know that I am more likely to be given the benefit of the doubt than my black friends are. As a counselor for 20 years, I worked with many black boys who got “The Talk”, where they were told by their mothers that different rules applied to them as a man of color than applied for white men.
Being a police officer is not an easy job in any community. The firepower of our police has escalated to the level of that of their adversaries, and they now feel that tanks and warfare are required to protect themselves and the streets. But are tanks and weapons of war necessary? Is it necessary to suspect every person of a certain race of being a criminal while giving others a pass?
Many officers will answer “No”. But there are still too many officers with antiquated beliefs, and too many police force cultures that support bullies. We still have a lot of work to do. At some point, we lose the ability to tell the good guys from the bad guys, and that is not acceptable.
We need communities where police officers are not targets of warfare, but we also need communities where the police do not target innocent people of a certain race unjustly.
I am old enough that I have lived through the race riots of the 1960’s, the 1992 Los Angeles riots following the Rodney King beating, and now the unrest in Ferguson. I am hearing the same calls for justice that we heard 40 some odd years ago. Will we learn from our history?
Will love ever prevail?
We can only hope.