So add Seattle Seahawks Michael Bennett to the list of Black Men who have “That” story to tell. What story is that? THAT story. The one in which you “fit the description” and where a sworn officer saw fit to Protect and Serve. The story that leads all Black parents to give their children “The talk”. Not about sex, not about drugs, but about simply what to do so that you survive an encounter with a Police officer….. ANY Police officer. The Police. The folks who are given the authority and responsibility to enforce the laws of the land, protect the innocent, and show the bravery to risk their own life to protect the lives of others…… Well not so fast my friend. With great power comes great responsibility. With immense trust comes incredible accountability. At least that’s how it should be. Unfortunately we live in America. A nation whose history and slogan couldn’t be further apart. A country who’s founding documents established a privileged White Male society. A country that went to war with itself nearly a century after it was born and has been fighting tooth and nail against every inch of erosion to that foundational fact.
The police have been the foot soldiers in that war to uphold the systemic racism that plagues America. From local militias, to runaway slave patrols, to local sheriffs, to local and state police departments. All of these exist to uphold “law and order”. The law part is pretty specific, black and white. It’s the “Order” where “The Talk” comes into play. Order is not traffic signals, speed limits, peaceful assembly, or stamping out drug abuse and use. Order is the daily use of Power, Authority, and Trust to continue to enforce to hierarchy of society. To reinforce the difference between the privileged trusted class and those who are not.
So how is this done? Well quite simply, you allow those with great power and trust to abuse both of those with little to no responsibility or accountability for doing so. Long before Rodney King, segments of society have been routinely pushed to and over the breaking point from these abuses. Being subjected to minor and major daily interactions for no reason. “Fitting the description” the minute you’re born. Where simply demanding that you are treated with respect and dignity can be viewed as a threat that requires the use of deadly force. Where you can be a multimillionaire famous Super Bowl Champion, proud husband, loving father, and yet society sends it’s soldiers to put a knee in your back and a gun to your head reducing you to putting “the talk” into action and triggering the instinct of responding with “Sir….” while your dignity and freedom are snatched from you like the weakest of children on the school yard.
Black American’s, particularly Black Males have been required to make choice throughout American history. Accept all forms of harassment and injustice subjected to you in the moment and most likely LIVE to tell about it. Or…… Decide to exercise your rights of expression and stand up for yourself and risk becoming a cautionary tale for the next man. Survive such an encounter, what do you do? Do you tell your story? Why? Michael Bennet eloquently wrote about his encounter and shared it via social media and drew instant headlines. How did the Las Vegas Police Union respond? The issued a statement demanding Bennet’s employer investigate him. Did they seek accountability? Did they even begin the process of responsibility? Clay Davis could easily answer those questions. No, instead the system responded swiftly and immediately because the one thing it fights to do is uphold ORDER. One wave of possible erosion and the system puts on it’s gloves and says, “Ding Ding, bring it on”.
Before you read this and accuse me of throwing a blanket of racism over all cops, please understand that I do NOT view the majority of Police Officers as racist or rogue. Just as I do not view the majority of White people in America as being racist. However BOTH groups MUST be the catalyst for change. Until good cops are free to hold bad cops accountable and responsible for their actions, the culture will continue to recycle itself. Until society holds those with incredible responsibility and authority highly accountable for abusing that power, the system will only continue to prove that it exists to uphold ORDER, and not justice. Until someone at the holiday dinner table tells Grandpa and dad that their opinions are flat out racist and wrong, the behavior will continue to be taught and passed down will be that “White” is still the top of the hierarchy in America and the daily microaggressions that we have to tolerate will only persist. Until that time, I will continue to have to make the choice of handing over everything upon request.