In case you missed the first post earlier this week, make sure you read Challenging Ideas Pt. 1 before you start reading this. I mean, you don’t have to but context is definetly a concept to befriend… Here’s the second half:
A few months ago, I met this guy who told me that he was a first responder for the city of Chicago. Perhaps it was naive of me, but I assumed that meant EMS or some mysterious medical profession I’d not heard of. Ultimately, a fast-paced job helping people fascinated me and my questions poured out. As my questioning became more rigorous, the time with which he paused to answer grew. A couple questions more and he said, “honestly? I’m a cop.”
I tried my best to stifle my reaction.
This announcement came near the beginning of our date. I told myself to play it cool and that I’d let him down gently if he asked to see me again. Then we began a very frank conversation. We started talking about white (male) privilege, and I had the opportunity to ask all the questions about the line of work I’d come to judge. I’ve never been pulled over or arrested leaving my experiences with police to consist of the night my ex got a DUI, and the night a stranger called the cops because that ex was mistreating me in public. My memories of those evenings are emotionally muffled. The officers weren’t rude to me, but they weren’t necessarily comforting either. They were professional and they did their jobs.
Anyway, the more I got to know this new cop guy, whose profession likely would have deterred me from meeting him, my confusion choked me. I didn’t dislike him. I sympathized with the experiences he shared with me. We had a great time. And when he asked to see me again, I didn’t turn him down. From what I’ve come to understand about this dude, who remains my friend, he is a pretty solid human being. But then Botham Jean is murdered and I’m confused all over again.
The other day I caught this segment on the news which shared that the rate of suicide amongst first responders is significantly higher than what is statistically average. Additionally, the rate of suicide amongst first responders in the city of Chicago is 60% higher than in other U.S. cities. That would be because I live in a very progressive, liberal city whose majority does not think kind thoughts about the police. Needless to say, it’s a way demanding profession with a less than excellent reputation.
That same day, the mom I nanny for showed me a thank you card that her son had made for the police. He’s only seven, mind you, so we’re still working on the whole spelling thing. I sent this picture to my cop friend, and do you know how he first interpreted the misspellings? He thought it said “pigs.”
I can’t help but think how sad it is that this guy feels so judged by admitting his profession that he only alludes to it. Or that at first glance he assumed he was being referred to as a pig. Honestly before meeting him, I wouldn’t have given any of this a second thought. I don’t admit that out of pride– more so embarrassment that it took all of this for me to learn to humanize law enforcement and extend them the compassion they deserve.
I started to reconsider the “blue lives matter” thing (the countermovement to black lives matter). It’s true, blue lives do matter. As they say, all lives matter. I thought about the police officer who shot Botham Jean, and I try to withhold judgement. But in our country, black and brown lives have always mattered less, while “blue lives” have always mattered more. Would I have been freaked out if I thought I’d entered my apartment and there was a large black man I didn’t know in there? Duh. But I don’t carry a gun and am not an officer who has sworn to protect and serve. The fact is, people of color are targeted, criminalized, incarcerated, and killed at rates vastly disproportionate to those of white people who commit the same offenses. In 2017, for the third year in a row, police killed nearly 1000 people, 19 of whom were unarmed black men. Black people remain much likelier to be killed while unarmed than any other group.
So what’s the solution? How do we circulate the injustices against black people without demeaning the people who put their lives on the line to protect us? How do we create a system that sifts out the bad seeds leaving only those who understand their duty to protect people of all ethnicities? I have a hunch that we’re going about this the wrong way, you know, because people keep dying. I have a feeling that conversational and listening skills might be some major keys.