(Slightly long post warning)
It’s been a few days now since a white Minneapolis cop pressed his knee into a black man’s neck and killed him.
This is what I posted on FB on a friend’s thread:
This is about race only to the degree that the victim happened to be black. Dig into the officer’s background and I promise you, as a 17-year veteran deputy sheriff who has worked with everyone from the Secret Service to local cops in single-officer departments in small towns, you will find excessive violence beefs with victims of all races. He probably is racist but that’s not what this about. This officer, and to a degree those around him who did nothing and who also got fired, has a hard-on for being in charge. Of anyone. He is a sadist and a control freak and race is probably not his first motivator. Control is his first motivator. Look, there are one million officers in this country and to some degree, all of us want to be ‘the man,’ that’s the nature of the job. Yes, most of us want to help and make our worlds better but being a police officer is about leading when the world burns down. We want to be the person to whom our communities turn when things go sideways. We want to lead. But there are some who just want to be in charge and that’s a huge difference from leading. This man is interested in taking control, not leading. Think about that difference, and think about it while noticing the one thing in this picture no one has mentioned. You can see it in other pictures of the same incident. Look at the cop’s left hand. In his pocket. He’s so confident he’s got this man perfectly restrained (at the back of a vehicle where he’s probably gassing him with exhaust) and at his mercy that he has time to get in a round of pocket pool. He’s not digging for cuffs, the man is already cuffed. He’s not digging for a cuff key because there’s no reason to uncuff him. He’s not looking for a radio or pen or anything else because most officers don’t keep anything in those pockets. He’s just sitting back, hands in pockets, like it’s an afternoon at the fishing hole. That is how completely and thoroughly he believes himself to be in control. Most officers are good people, though God knows I can’t imagine how scary it is to be a man of color in America right now, but this cop-and those who would stand by while he committed murder under color of authority-are not good people. They have no integrity or humanity. They are the absolute worst law enforcement has to offer.
Which is not to say race doesn’t matter in law enforcement and with racist cops, it absolutely does. There are those for whom race is the number one thing. Those kinds of officers wear blue or brown the way their forbearers wore white hoods. I’m only saying that in this case, based on this officer’s body language, I think there is more going on than JUST race. I offer this clarification because while Dani knows me incredibly well, not all of her friends do, and because while Dani knows I’m probably a cheap punk, she also knows I get blazingly angry when I get painted with the same brush as shitty cops just because we both wear blue. What I think she also knows is that I grew up in a home with both flavors…vanilla AND chocolate.
I do not understand racism. My mama, while I was growing up, dated a black man, and lots of her friends, male and female, were black. Pretty progressive for a woman who grew up in Oklahoma, the reddest of red states.
Anyway, her favorite story of me is how a young me came home excited and told her about some kid I’d met and how cool he was and blah blah blah. At some point, in her telling, she asked me if the kid was black or white and my reply was something along the lines of: “I don’t know.”
Her proudest moment, I think. A kid who saw no color.
(Actually, I think most young kids are color blind. They don’t learn that different colors mean different human worth until later.)
I’ve known too many towering people of color to ever believe there is an inherent problem with blackness, or Hispanic-ness or Asian-ness or whatever. It is simply idiotic to believe the difference is pigmentation.
The difference is in the soul and the heart, and that is exactly where my personal cynicism is. I could give a blithering fuck about your pigmentation. But if you’re beating on your grandmother ’cause she won’t come across with some drug money, then you and I are going to have a problem. If you’re breaking into a house because you covet thy neighbor’s John Deere Gator, then you and I are going to have a problem.
Maybe this guy in Minneapolis is a racist, maybe all of them who got fired are racists-after all, law enforcement has a problem with racism. I had to deal with racism myself as a patrol sergeant recently.
Certainly seems as though he’s a racist but that may only be because we’ve dealt with so many racist officers lately and the visuals of this are racist: white killing black for absolutely no reason at all.
Superficially, it seems racist and it absolutely is a case of a white man of authority killing a black man over whom he has temporary authority, but I think it’s equally likely that this cop’s problem is his desperate need to be in charge.
And I absolutely do understand that.
In fact, we’re trained to take charge; to lead in times of trouble. The cops have to take charge when there is a multiple-car accident with fatalities, when there is a school shooter, or an abuser come to his wife’s work to kill her. The cops need to grab the situation by the balls and squeeze until everyone-guilty and innocent alike-are on the ground and we can see everything: the guilty and the innocent, the wounded, the dead.
You cannot stop a horrible situation without taking charge and often, in my job, a horrible situation means death. There is no time to get a consensus from hordes of untrained people on what the next step should be.
So we take immediate charge and sort it out after we’ve made sure everyone is safe.
But from that can come a sense, not of putting on the trappings of authority, but of being authority.
We learn to inhabit authority as a second soul and that is what we, as both individual officers and the entire industry, must guard against. At all times and in all ways, we have to inhabit instead our humanity and our integrity.
That is something the officers in Minneapolis failed to do. Look at the picture and you’ll see it. The officer kneeing the arrestee in the neck has at least one hand in his pocket.
So comfortable with the tactical situation that he can relax with his hands in his pockets.
He’s not reaching for anything because damned few officers keep anything in those pockets. Also, there are multiple pictures of it. He’s looking this way…hand in pocket. He’s looking that way…hand in pocket. He’s talking to another officer…hand in pocket.
This cop ain’t worried about shit tactically. He’s in charge and this black man ain’t moving anywhere.
Now this black man-Mr. George Floyd-will never move anywhere again.
And it gets more and more difficult for me to convince civilians that this isn’t the reality of law enforcement; that a vast majority of the nearly 1,000,000 cops in the country are good people who want to help.
Because all they see is a black man with a white knee pressed against him, saying “I can’t breathe,” over and over again until he dies.