Black parents have “the talk” with their children for a reason. They love their children. They don’t want them to be killed. When President Obama gave a speech that mentioned “the talk,” cops were outraged. Their “president” would extol their virtues, that they’re heroes, that they are to be respected because…reasons. Not out of fear.
Except that’s the view from cop fantasyland. This is the view from inside the car looking at the cop who just stopped you, if you happen to be black.
“When I went to talk to the driver, I found a young black male, who was looking at me like he was absolutely terrified with his hands up. He said, ‘What do you want me to do officer?’ His voice was quivering. He was genuinely scared. I just looked at him for a moment, because what I was seeing made me sad. I said, ‘I just don’t want you to get hurt.’ In which he replied, with his voice still shaking, ‘Do you want me to get out of the car.'”
No, every black person does not get shot. Every black person is not treated like a subhuman threat. Every cop does not hate and fear blacks. But what parent wants his kid to be the one with a march and memorial?
Is the fear irrational? No. It’s not just the minute percentage of unarmed, wrongfully killed blacks, but the percentage arrested without cause, the millions who were told to kiss concrete as they were stopped on their way to school for a quick stop and frisk for the third time that week. It’s the experience of listening to cops curse at them without any provocation whatsoever. Most don’t end up dead, but there is no list of people treated like dirt who walked away breathing.
Tim McMillan, who identifies himself as a police officer in Georgia, wrote in a Facebook post earlier this week that he pulled someone over for texting and driving. As soon as he went over to talk to the driver, McMillan thought the young black man appeared paralyzed with fear about interacting with the officer — perhaps because of recent widespread coverage of black men getting killed by cops, even during routine traffic stops.
From his reaction to this experience, Tim McMillan earned the appreciation of many, deservedly so. He treated the young black driver like a human being. He was taken aback by the fear he saw, realizing how horrible things had gotten that a kid was scared to death that any interaction with a cop put his life at risk.
But his conclusion was curious:
“I truly don’t even care who’s fault it is that young man was so scared to have a police officer at his window,” he wrote. “Blame the media, blame bad cops, blame protestors, or Colin Kaepernick if you want. It doesn’t matter to me who’s to blame. I just wish somebody would fix it.”
The post then uncritically lapsed into a laundry list of the official fixes, responsive to McMillan’s “somebody fix it” plea.
A series of solutions are part of the current discourse on policing in America. Some people have recommended requiring police officials to undergo racial bias training to eliminate any biases that police officers may have on the job. New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Porrino recently called for statewide bias training of police officers to help fight this issue.
And it goes on in this vein, all the somebodies who are going to fix it, as if there is “racial bias training” that will enlighten police officers not to call black kids “motherfuckers” to establish their command presence.
“Oh wait? You mean calling black kids ‘motherfucker’ isn’t the way to establish a friendly and cooperative relationship with members of the public? Thanks for training me, because I’ve been doing it all wrong. I never knew that before, and still wouldn’t but for this very effective racial bias training.”
This isn’t to suggest that efforts shouldn’t be made, that there aren’t “official” things that need to be done, though if they actually accomplished anything, we might see more substantive results rather than another thread of comments at PoliceOne about how a cop wouldn’t have had to kill the poor bastard if he just did what he was told.
Yet, there is a disconnect that demands attention in McMillan’s otherwise empathetic facebook post.
I just wish somebody would fix it.
Somebody. Why doesn’t “somebody” fix it for him. Fix it for us. Somebody.
We’re awash with the expectation that fixes will be handed down to us, like magic pills that will cure whatever ails us. McMillan is a cop, but he looks to somebody to fix it? Fix it yourself, pal. McMillan has a good running start by his own actions, his own recognition of what’s happening in the heads of young black men. But there’s more.
What about your fellow cop who didn’t get the memo about not screaming, “freeze, motherfucker,” at some black kid? What about that fifth cop who comes late to the party of the cuffed perp on the ground, but still gets in a kick to the head because he doesn’t want to be the only cop who didn’t land a blow, even though he has no idea why any cop was punching him as he ran up to the pile? What about that cop who pulls the trigger before he sees the glint of metal because he’s taking no chance of not making it home for dinner?
You want somebody to fix it? You’re the somebody.
Much as I admire the efforts of guys like Walter Katz, the San Jose Independent Police Auditor, to create systems, practices and transparency, or cops like Nick Selby, who is trying to use technology to make sense of what’s really happening on the street, the fact remains that we’re deluged with videos of cops behaving badly. The solution isn’t fewer videos.
Remember that “talk” that black parents have with their kids? Why isn’t there a parallel “talk” that cops have with each other about not being that violent, nasty, scared asshole? If you want respect, a medal for being a hero, then be the person who deserves it. Be the cop who has the guts to tell his fellow cops that they are the problem, even though it’s going to make you unpopular in the locker room.
Yes, Officer McMillan, somebody ought to fix it. You’re that somebody. Your fellow cops are that somebody. Good men and women with shields are that somebody. You seem like a good cop, a good man. Fix it.