Something has to change now.
I believe that we all need to find some sort of response in light of what is happening in our nation right now, and though a blog post is small in the scale of taking action, it is more than I have done in the past. I am not intending a hot take on the current news, rather, it is a retelling of how all of this looks through my eyes. Thank you for reading. – BG
I was nine years old the first time I saw police brutality. It was 1991 and my parents had the news on the television. There was a video of a group of police officers raining down blows onto an unarmed man, and they did not stop until he stopped trying to stand. What did they see that made them break this man’s body and spirit instead of just putting him in the backseat of one of the many cop cars that were at the scene? The arrest was an act of justice, as Rodney King had broken the law, but the means used to perform the arrest were an act of injustice.
It was a very scary thing to see as a child, though I guess I’m lucky that I had made it to nine years old before witnessing something like that. I know there have been more cases than I even know about in the past 30 years, but the stories of black people dying at the hands of law enforcement, or being unjustly pulled over or arrested, have become consistent news throughout my children’s lives.
The roots of racial unrest run so deep through the veins of our nation, so it’s hard to make the case that these events are not racially charged. Why is it that Sandra Bland was treated like a criminal when she was pulled over for a minor traffic violation in an obscure low traffic area? Because she questioned the police officer instead of just blindly accepting his accusation, she was threatened, verbally assaulted, and aggressively taken into custody. This woman took her life days after the arrest because the injustice was too heavy a burden for her to bear. This is the cornerstone example used in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Talking to Strangers, which I highly recommend reading or listening to.
I did not realize then that what I witnessed the Rodney King trial and subsequent rioting, that my children would be experiencing the same atrocities over and over throughout their youth almost 30 years later. They don’t understand why racism exists, but then again, we are white, so we have that luxury to have to be taught about it rather than experience it.
The questions always arise when one of these arrests or deaths take place: Why didn’t he just stay down? Why didn’t she just cooperate? Why did he try and run? If I saw people from my community receiving punishments and judgments disproportionate the trespasses, I would be scared, and fear drives us into a survival state of mind.
I don’t know what would be going through my mind and body if I were in Rodney King’s place. It’s easy to say that he should have got down and stayed down, but could five cops have easily restrained one unarmed man without the use of clubs, tasers, and fists? Maybe he did want to stand up to fight and defend himself, as his friends lay cuffed and injured by the car, why wouldn’t he? Maybe he just wanted to stand amid the injustice. Is pride such a bad thing? Should a citizen have to be emasculated and immobilized for an officer(s) to feel safe or respected?
I believe that he wanted to stand because he could not accept that this beating was justice. In the most recent events with George Floyd, he was as low anyone could get, face to the ground, hands behind his back, yet even that was not enough to satisfy.
I was raised to love humanity, and that is what we have raised our girls to do. We are not color blind because I would not dare strip anyone of the uniqueness that makes us who we are. Our color is part of our roots and family history. Love regardless of race is essential, but in our race, we find our culture, we find insight, and by joining together in unity we experience the power of diversity. In diversity, we find innovation, creativity, and world-changing ideas.
I also need to say that I respect our law enforcement brothers and sisters during this time because the media is showing us the worst of the worst. There are bad cops out there doing bad things, but they are not the majority. The danger with all stereotyping is that it strips the individual of the opportunity to be limitless, and to show the world the good that is in them. Police officers are there to serve and protect, and though the system they belong to has been broken for a long time, we must still love and support those who are in the service of our cities, while still standing against the corrupt.
His words were simple, and though they are not the fullness of a solution, they are part of the puzzle to create a better nation. They made sense to me as a young boy, and they still ring in my head whenever we face this kind of social unrest. If Rodney King can say these words after 50 plus blows from a baton, then they hold some weight, and we should receive them:
“Can’t we all just get along?” – Rodney King