Today I got a direct FB message from Jeffrey Thames asking me to come to the town hall meeting at the Silver Spring Civic Center. I was running a few minutes late because of an accident on 450, but I got to hear most everything… and I was worried. Tempers did not run especially high, but it was an intense discussion on race and the police. People were asked to grade the force from A to F, and predictably, the whites rated it higher than the people of color… because the people of color had stories to back up their grades. There was only one white woman that stood up and gave them a D, saying that she’d personally witnessed three white undercover cops trying to pull down a black man’s pants in broad daylight, and she was pretty sure the Fourth Amendment didn’t cover that.
She called the police department and got no reply. She called internal affairs, where they told her it would be kicked back to the police department… and asked why they are allowed to investigate themselves. The police chief was visibly shaken, because if there was something he expected to hear, that wasn’t it.
Additionally, there was someone I couldn’t see that was obviously black by the intonations in their voice. At first, I thought it was a young boy, because they said that their life’s dream was to become a police officer, even joining the 14-20 year old Explorer’s Program, until they were held by the police, given bruises and a bloody lip, and only saved by her white mother (she’d been adopted from Haiti), who happened to be standing nearby. It was then that she said she was a woman, and my whole perspective changed. I struggled to see her, wanted even more to touch her arm or her hand in solidarity. I didn’t get either chance. I just listened.
Her white mother got an apology… she never did. She also never said whether the cop who hit her was male or female, but it doesn’t matter. The fact that a cop hit her at all was an abuse of power, especially since she wasn’t guilty of anything. After her mother came up to the police, all of the sudden, the charges were dropped. Not only can I not imagine being punched by a cop, I can’t imagine watching my child get punched in front of me. By this time, there were tears streaming down my face, and I was fighting not to go into “the ugly cry.”
It was all just so sad, with plenty of mothers in the crowd who got up and asked why they had to teach their children how to act in front of the police. The chief’s response was nothing short of victim-shaming. I wish I’d taken out my keyboard when I got there, because I type fast enough that I could have recorded the whole thing and I would have had his exact words on record. They are lost to me now, but it was basically that it was up to the black and brown people to prove their innocence rather than white cops becoming more racially sensitive. As one woman eloquently stated, “America’s biggest sin (slavery) has become America’s greatest lie.” She talked about a ’50s congressman who said that black people were an inferior and dependent race… and that policemen should be required to read everything they can about slavery and Jim Crow, specifically Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.
It was required reading in tenth grade at HSPVA, and I burned through it in about an hour and a half, then read it again. She was right; education begets prevention… as well as, as other people suggested, better personality tests that look for racism when applying to the academy.
Because the saying is not “it’s only a few bad apples.” The saying is “one bad apple spoils the bunch.” There’s no way to make policing perfect, but if you see a black man as intimidating and a white man as inherently innocent, there’s going to be issues.
Going to be? It’s happening right now.
Millions of years ago, Africa birthed me. There is no such thing as race. We just like to pretend there is. There is no one on earth that wasn’t “born” in Africa. Our skin just got lighter the further we walked away from it.
Our skin got lighter, and our sin got darker.
For instance, there are still slave owners on our money. I can’t imagine taking George Washington off of the one dollar bill, and I also can’t imagine being black and the sickening knowing of just how many slaves worked on his plantation… and he is just an example when there are many.
The biggest lie in American politics is that we couldn’t have formed the US without abolishing slavery as it was happening. There are no clauses in “all men are created equal.”
And yet, even today, there are…. we just don’t write them down.