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Badge of Shame

Slave Patrol Badge (howard_mooreland, 2017).

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.

References

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

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(Dis)Trusted Servant

I’m Christian. I go to Church. But I do not trust the Christian Church. I’ve got over 40 years of reasons why. The psychological condemnation by the Christian Church I received as a gay man has caused a deep-seated distrust of the institution. But I go to church to worship, not to worry. How does my distrust of an institution relate to the topic of antiracist activism?

No Justice No Peace by Notsik
No Justice No Peace by Notsik (wiredforlego, 2020).

It is similar to the reason Black, Brown, Indigenous, and Immigrant persons do not trust the institution of law enforcement. Law enforcement is an institution has publicly and sometimes egregiously harmed, wounded, and killed, persons of color. I have students of color who write about their internal conflict they have experienced when even driving or walking by a police officer.  We have seen the brutal killing of black men and women through unreasonable acts of restraint. The institution is rooted in selectively reacting based upon race, we have seen the tepid action of law enforcement in applying disproportionate restraint tactics of the white mob of protestors at our nation’s Capitol. Had the crowd been black, I can almost guarantee the reaction of law enforcement would have been swift, aggressive, and forceful.

This prejudicial and preferential treatment of white community over Black, Brown, and Indigenous community is not new to our nation’s history.  It is in our history we find the very reason of this institutional bias that treats light skin better than dark skin. The modern-day police departments, at least the Southern departments, have their beginnings in the slave patrols of the Civil War and during reconstruction (Potter, 2013). It would be easy to dismiss with an “in the past” argument and “not relevant to today”, but the field of epigenetics would suggest otherwise.


The field of epigenetics suggests that generational trauma is passed down up to 14 generations (Singh, 2020).


If we consider a generation to be 35-40 years based on a Google search, then that means that generational, racialized trauma that we are experiencing today may be a result of acts committed against the body Black from 1461. How ironically close that is to the “discovery” of America made permissible by the Church’s Doctrine of Discovery. The doctrine which ultimately led to the institutions of white supremacy through our euro-descended ancestors first, then the enslavement of our African brothers and sisters second, and ultimately to the law enforcement institutions today. Not to say racism is encoded in our DNA, but to say that systemic racism has affected our bodies’ chemistry in a way that is passed down from generation to generation. Black and white trauma at both ends of the racist/antiracist spectrum is the result. The past is not in the past, but is in the present.

Before trust can be placed into the hands of law enforcement, law enforcement must address the truth of their past, admit its failings, and become an institution of change. Police lives do matter, but police are not blue, the institution is blue. Blue lives matter places the institution above the person, an institution founded in racism and that continues to support racial profiling and the arrest and murder non-white persons.

References

Potter, G. (2013, June 25). The history of policing in the United States, part I. Eastern Kentucky University Police Studies Online. Retrieved January 9, 2021 from https://plsonline.eku.edu/insidelook/history-policing-united-states-part-1

Singh, A. (2020). Building a counseling psychology of liberation: The path behind us, under us, and before us. The Counseling Psychologist 48(8), 1109 – 1130.

wiredforlego. (2020, August 20). No justice, no peace by notsik [Photograph]. Flickr. (https://www.flickr.com/photos/wiredforsound23/50282335652/in/photostream/). CC BY-NC 2.0.