If you were to ask any young boy what they wanted to be when they grew up, a very common answer you would probably receive is “police officer.” It’s a common trait to find in young men. Protecting the innocent, having the authority, and being the hero. For me it wasn’t any different. I wanted to put on a uniform and a badge, and go protect and serve.
Growing up, my parents were adamant to make sure that I had a healthy respect for the men in uniform. It’s a respect that never left me, and as a young man I continued to pursue my passion for law enforcement. At the age of seventeen I found myself working at the Dallas Country Juvenile Court, and would work there for the next 2 years.
Police work and law enforcement are, to me, something to be admired and respected.
However, as appreciative as my father was, he also spoke to me of the complications we face as black men and women around law enforcement officials. The respect he taught me was not just one of simple admiration; it was also one of caution. “Always mind your manners” and “don’t make sudden movements” was advice he would give me when dealing with police officers. This was coming from a good, law abiding man. You see, regardless of my father’s good standing as a citizen he still came away with a few experiences one can only get as a black male.
It is no secret, and there is no denying that the long standing relationship between police and the black community has been tremulous. It is a relationship that has over time put both officer and citizen on their guard with one another, even if the man behind the badge was black himself.
Now in every group you are going to have your good and bad characters. There are good police officers and there and bad ones, just like there are good and bad black citizens. I find it a shame that during the tragic occurrences in Ferguson Missouri, the latter half of both were highlighted to no end. It was even more shameful that groups of every kind were willing to point out the bad of both police and the black community without the proper information.
If we can pull anything from Ferguson, it’s that the divide between the two groups in question is not just damaging to police, but to the community around it. We’ve let the stigma become so bad that innocent bystanders have been roped into the struggle. Are our differences so bad that we have to include those who want no part of it?
We’ve seen rioters destroy and loot businesses large and small. We’ve seen police fire tear gas at the media. Children have even brought into the mix. Where does justice factor into any of these things? How does this bring us any closer to an understanding as to what really happened between police and Michael Brown? At this rate, would the facts about Michael Brown actually change anything with so much hatred being thrown from one group to another?
There comes a point when the reason for a conflict is forgotten, and the conflict itself becomes the reason. In Ferguson, that point is coming dangerously close. It would behoove us all to make sure that we stop jumping to conclusions, and wait patiently for the information to come through. In the end, the truth will out.
We also should take stock of the everyday tragedies that happen in the black community. Black on black violence is, without a doubt, some of the most common in America, with some 9,000 black citizens murdered every year. Where is the outrage when it comes to these statistics? Do we have to wait for a police officer, or a white man to murder a black person before we begin to take action? Where are Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson making grand speeches about the violence we as a black community do unto each other?
We in the black community must aspire to be greater. We do ourselves and the those around us no favors by lashing out, and provoking further violence with outrage caused by the ignorance we allow others to saturate our community with. Despite what makes the headlines sell, I know that we as a community are wholly good, and that we want no part in these protests and abuses of authority.
We, and the police that I continue to look up to today, need to come to an understanding that can only be reached when we truly seek real justice together. Not through rioting, or abuse of authority, or prejudices, or destruction. Injustice will not bring justice.
Justice should not be an agenda item that we only seek when it benefits us politically. Justice is not weapon we use to to “get even.” True justice is what we as Americans should seek as a nation in order to set right the wrongs done. It’s up to us in the black community and those of us within law enforcement to put our prejudices aside and seek it as one.
If we can’t, Ferguson will be the ripple that starts the wave.
Follow Lawrence Jones on Twitter @Lawrencebjones3