Thursday, July 7, 2016

Choosing Sides: Choose Justice

Seems simple, right? Choose justice. A murderer goes to prison. A thief, a rapist, arsonist, whatever. Why should that change given the color of someone’s skin or the type of occupation the person holds? Our society is rife with contradiction. We hold ideals of democracy, yet allow corporations and wealthy people to buy candidates through their donations. People claim to hold Christian values and then complain about poor, food insecure people being on assistance. We hold the Constitution as our compass, and then then talk about banning Muslims. We idealize freedom and then want to limit gay and lesbian couples from getting married. All men are created equal, unless you’re black, Hispanic, non-Christian, gay, transgender, or homeless. Why don’t we get back to basics? Disregard a person’s race, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, political party, or occupation. What’s right is right.

I’m sick of the immediate, blind choosing of sides any time some kind of outrage emerges in the media. A black man gets shot by a police officer, and like clockwork, the NAACP calls for the mayor to resign. People start raising hell, assuming that all cops are racist, and then Jesse Jackson shows up to organize a protest. At the same time, others go on the immediate defensive. Backing the Blue! No matter what. These are public servants, they put their lives on the line, any traffic stop can turn fatal, etc. And these groups just yell at each other for a few days until we find something else to distract us or something new to be outraged about. How about this? Sometimes the perp deserves it…and…sometimes the cop fucks up. There is no automatic either/or. Why don’t we hold off on the verdict until we have all the facts in place?

I understand Black Lives Matters. I understand why that phrase holds significance apart from “all lives matter”. Of course all lives matter. What Black Lives Matter should have been called is Black Lives Matter, Too. It’s not a stretch for a person to recognize that murder, addiction, crime, and poverty in poor, black neighborhoods is downplayed in the media and taken as a given by people who don’t grow up in that environment. In fact many people end up just attributing those kinds of problems to the people—that’s what those people do; that’s how they are. They… Those people… Disregard. Get my latte. Binge watch Fuller House on Netflix. Out of sight, out of mind. That’s what Black Lives Matter is about. When a black man or woman is murdered in the slums, we don’t give a shit. When they suffer excessive force, profiling, or are shot while unarmed by either a police officer or unofficial neighborhood watchman, we don’t give a shit. We side with the officer. We side with the white guy. Two teenage boys in two different neighborhoods get caught with weed. Guess which one goes to jail and guess which one gets dropped off to his parents for some in-home discipline. There is a real problem. There is such a thing as a racist cop. There is such a thing as police brutality and abuse of power.

But…this doesn’t excuse you from committing crime. Commit crime, and get arrested. Resist arrest, and get your ass whipped. That’s common sense. If you pull a gun on a cop or try to grab his weapon, you might get shot, and the officer is going to be in the right. They have the right to defend their lives and the lives of others. In fact, that’s their duty. Serve and protect. We cannot automatically assume that a black man killed by a white cop is racially motivated. We cannot assume immediately that this is an injustice. Sometimes, the guy deserves it. Sometimes (actually most of the time), the actions of the officer are warranted and justified. When we start making the cop the bad guy, it erodes public faith in our law enforcement. We can’t have that. These officers and their agencies must maintain integrity and authority in the community.

That being said, the officers, have to conduct themselves with integrity to maintain public trust. Respect isn’t a given. It’s earned. Law enforcement agencies must be cognizant of the actions of the people within their employ. Every business in the world fires people who either can’t cut it, mistreat others, or otherwise cause a negative view of that business. Shouldn’t police departments? Misuse of power should not be tolerated. If you’re bad at being a cop, you should go. That includes killing another citizen who is unarmed. Sometimes, when a cop screws up at their job, innocent people lose their lives. That’s not something to take lightly. These are people. Their lives do matter. They have a right to due process before losing life or liberty. Police departments cannot allow corruption, needless brutality, and committing criminal acts. Hold your officers accountable. Show that you strive to make your agency fair and honorable. Show that you are on the side of justice. The vast majority of American police officers are normal people. Law-abiding, decent, people with honorable intentions and values. But it’s ridiculous to automatically assume that about all officers. There are bound to be some bad apples.

My point is this:  we cannot assume that a police officer is always right any more than we can assume that the perpetrator is always in the wrong. When a new story or new video of a black man getting shot by a cop hits Facebook, CNN, and Vice, don’t just automatically choose a side. The victim might be in the wrong. The cop might be wrong. It might even be more complicated than that. Throw aside your bias. If you’re going to pick a side, pick the side of justice, wherever that may fall. 

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