Police brutality and race relations are the hot topic of the day. And a very sensitive one from many perspectives.
I grew up in the 60’s and saw police brutality going on a lot in the country. I remember mostly the Viet Nam protests and how the cops and national guards got involved to contain them. In those days, I don’t recall any racism complaints on the Viet Nam protests. I think the protestors were mostly white, and maybe entitled college kids. And there were some reports of billy club beatings, mace and other action by authorities. On the other hand, the protestors did not respect any authority of any kind in the war or in response to their protests. It was common to call cops pigs, throw rocks and stuff at them and do other things that required National Guard people to wear helmets and full armor at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago in 1968. It was a mini war. Many were arrested, resisted arrest, and/or got locked up (or maybe even beat up) for a few days to cool off. Prominent protestors like Bill Ayers and the Weather Underground went even further and bombed buildings showing a complete lack of respect for innocent people and authority of any kind. Whether we agreed or disagreed with the protestors and the police brutality it was clear to me that we had a chicken and egg deal going: which came first, the disrespect for the cops’ authority in enforcing peace or the police brutality? I don’t have an answer to that.
Here we are today with incidents like Ferguson and Garner in New York. Personally in the latter case I think the cop was out of line choking the guy until he couldn’t breathe and died. I don’t know if it was race related or not, but from what I saw the guy was not resisting arrest very violently so I question the force applied in this case.
Ferguson is a different matter, very similar to the Viet Nam situation I described above. I am sure there are some racist cops, but not all of them are racist. In turn, I think everyone has some bias against some group so we shouldn’t be too quick to point fingers.
But which comes first in a case like this? Any cop who picks on any race is not doing his or her job the way the public wants them to. But, did Brown pick a fight by disrespecting Wilson’s authority and resist arrest thereby causing the shooting? All accounts show he resisted arrest and witnesses said there was a fight with the arresting Wilson. The grand jury concluded after many witnesses that Brown, when ordered to stop, returned to Wilson ready to attack him and got shot. I don’t know if Wilson had to shoot Brown or not or what alternatives he had. All I know is that Brown didn’t appear to have any respect for Wilson’s authority. And I don’t know if Brown had a valid reason from his experiences not to respect him.
So with this rambling, what do I conclude? We need to have an honest conversation about both sides of the issue. We all need to respect others! Cops must respect blacks, blacks must respect cops; we all need to respect authority. If we disagree with authority we must find ways to change the situation that we disagree with. I think we all disrespect authority in some way, politicians are a great example. And yes, if they respect us by telling us the truth it will help us respect them!
John Lennon wrote a great song that is still prominent in today’s society. It is “IMAGINE” in which the lyrics paint his utopian view of the world. I don’t agree with all his solutions, but it is a nice piece of music and generates something to consider. I would add a verse such as: “imagine a world where we didn’t need cops”!