Friday, December 26, 2014

Why can’t we all just get along? It seems like such a naive thought

What we really need is to figure out a way that our society can figure out how people of color can feel less threatened by the police who are supposed to be protecting all of us.

Because names such as Michael Brown and Eric Garner already are ancient history – the people who are quarrelling over whether the police are singling out black people for abuse have already moved on to fresher incidents.

EVEN THOUGH THOSE incidents are less than a month old!

For it was just last weekend that a black man, feeling a sense of disgust because of the deaths of those two men and contempt for law enforcement in general, traveled to New York and opened fire on two uniformed police officers who happened to be sitting in a squad car in the Brooklyn borough.

Then on Tuesday in Berkeley, Mo., (just about five miles from the town where Brown was killed by police officers), a teenage boy was shot to death by a local cop.

There is evidence that the boy, when confronted by police, reached for something resembling a pistol – thereby giving the officer in question the legal justification to feel threatened and respond with gunfire.

YET THAT DIDN’T stop local residents from gathering early Wednesday at the gas station where the boy’s death took place and begin protests that at times threatened to grow out of hand.

Combine this with another incident during the weekend in which a rural Florida police officer was shot at, and we just seem to have an endless streak of incidents in which public mistrust of the police is at stake.

More than two decades after Rodney King uttered his words about his preferred state of police/public relations, it seems we’re nowhere near to achieving them.

Now I had hoped to avoid writing much of anything about the New York police slayings, largely because I’m already sick of hearing about them elsewhere. A part of me regrets that I’m adding to the level of rhetoric.

ALTHOUGH WHAT ALSO bothers me is the fact that I have read way too much Internet commentary from people who want to perceive the shootings of the two New York police officers as some sort of evidence that both Brown and Garner were a pair of “(Insert preferred racial slur here) who got what they deserved.”

I don’t doubt that the two officers (who were of Chinese and Puerto Rican ethnic origins, and not white) were caught off guard and weren't threatening anyone at the time they were shot.

But I’m more repulsed by the New York police officers who pulled their symbolic gesture of contempt of turning their backs on on Mayor Bill de Blasio, claiming he was wrong with his past comments implying that perhaps people who were protesting Garner’s death at the hands of New York police just a few weeks ago were justified in their feelings – despite the grand jury that refused to return an indictment against the officers involved.

Perhaps they’re going to be eager to believe the latest police-related death in the St. Louis suburbs is yet another incident of brave law enforcement officers sparing society from yet another person who would have turned out to be a thug. Which is why I'm not enthused that the Chicago Police Department has its officers wearing black bands on their uniforms as a tribute to their New York law enforcement brethren.

THAT KIND OF attitude of knee-jerk support for cops is offensive on so many levels. While I can understand the legal reasons why prosecutors are reluctant to go after police, I also fully comprehend why people feel nothing but contempt for such an attitude.

As though they’re being singled out for abuse by people committing what can amount to criminal acts and are using the authority granted by their badges to avoid facing the consequences.

Personally, I feel fortunate we haven’t had any such police/black people conflicts in the Chicago area anytime in the recent past. But we shouldn’t presume that we’re above such bad behavior.

Because that level of tension seems to be something universal to our society, and we can only hope our public officials figure out how to handle such circumstances better than other cities have done so.


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