Even as I look at my white world through my white eyes I see the disparity in treatment between white and black and white and brown by law enforcement. As enlightened as I try to be, my truth of my white self still grapples with categorically judging an entire branch of law enforcement based upon the acts of highly publicized cases. I was taught to respect the police. I was taught they were there for help. I suspect other white people were taught the same and have the same questions.
The fact that the modern police have their roots in the slave patrols of the south [(and I refuse to capitalize south)] (ACLU, 2020), cannot be swept under the carpet of the Era of Reconstruction. In fact, it was the result of federal troops withdrawing from the south ending the Era of Reconstruction that cemented localized white supremacy and guaranteed a protective force that favored white over black. (ACLU, 2020). Herein lies the structural issue of systemic, institutional, and structural racism. And the truth is, that is should not matter if one bad apple police officer, or two, or three, or twelve is responsible for misconduct resulting in the death of an individual.
If the institution is to be trusted, it must first be trustworthy.
Violation of trust, once it occurs, makes it harder to trust the offender. When the same offense has occurred for over 400 years at the hands of the same offenders, it is nearly impossible to earn back. If there is any solution to be found to addressing systemic racism in the institution of blue it will have to be through dialogue, but what should that dialog look like? It is painstakingly clear, with continued death of black and brown men and women by police officers, the current method of conversation isn’t effective.
AUTHORS NOTE REGARDING THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH: The study I cite here is a scholarly study on how one model has been used to negotiate peace treaties and accords. My intent in including it is as a model to start the dialogue to bridge the gap between historical police abuse and murder of Black and Brown persons. The term ‘victimhood’ is directly from the article and is not meant to imply that police are the victims. I believe it is Black and Brown community that has been victimized. Please do not get entangled around the use of the term when it is used below.
One proposal is to move the conversation from the perspective of criminal justice and Black versus blue to that of the political and psychological world (Solomon & Martin, 2018). Solomon & Martin (2018) observe that Blue Lives Matter was a counter movement to the movement of Black Lives Matter. Negotiating from a movement-counter movement perspective does not foster reconciliation or sustained social change. Drawing upon reconciliation models implemented in geopolitical conflicts and a philosophy of competitive victimhood may allow new in-roads to reconciliation. In competitive victimhood, both groups claim moral authority through their own group lens and mediators recognize what each perceive as their truth giving each agency and authority. In essence, it allows both parties to participate without feeling their moral values are being questioned. I find their premise intriguing if only to remind me that we are dealing with structural issues that both Black lives and blue institutions agree need to be addressed. It may also help white people hold their own competitive victimhood and morality in check long enough to let change begin. Only then, can we finally get the altruistic epithet of all lives matter. That cannot happen until #blacklivesmatter to blue institutions.
ACLU [@ACLU]. (2020, June 6). LISTEN NOW: The first example of a modern police department in the United States was a slave patrol. Policing has [Image with link attached] [Tweet]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/aclu/status/1269305046216462337?lang=en
howard_moreland. (2017, January 1). B22 slave patrol 00 [Photograph]. Flickr. (https://www.flickr.com/photos/45803876@N00/31878993162). CC BY 2.0
Solomon, J. & Martin, A. (2018). Competitive victimhood as a lens to reconciliation: An analysis of the black lives matter and blue lives matter movements. Conflict Resolution Quarterly, 2019(37), 7-31. https://doi.org/10.1002/crq.21262