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Help!? Police!?

July 10, 2016

I learned, as a kid, to shout “Help! Police!” as loud as I could holler, if ever I was in trouble. Whenever I went out of our house, I was comforted by the knowledge that I had a sure source of help. For me, a policeman would never, himself, be a source of trouble.

Of course I didn’t realize that I looked like the child of a property owner.

Now I know that I’d have been calling on the color of my skin. Without that color, to whom could I call?

Would I have had to call for help because a policeman had appeared?

(Shoot my dad? Where’d you get a crazy idea like that? Cowboys shot Indians. Police shot mobsters. In real life, police never took their guns out of their holsters. Seriously.)

Today a friend told me of a recent experience of her son-in-law, in Brooklyn. One night he was about to enter his apartment building (using his key) and two white officers got out of an unmarked car, looked at his identity, and started trying to provoke him. They told him not to touch his cell phone, but he had pressed the automatic call to his wife. When she answered they immediately turned and left. We all know he could very well be dead right now.  [Update an hour later:  as in this execution, in TX, just like I said below.]

Honestly, can we live with ourselves if we tolerate this? American police violence is eating the flesh of our humanity. Aided and abetted by one of our major political parties, it has the potential to tear apart our civil society.

Some police officers, some entire local forces and the governments that sanction them, have become a law unto themselves. Home grown terrorists (and self-terrorized), hoodless kluxers, vigilantes in disguise, they form “ranging companies,” like texas rangers ranging the range of their streets and parking lots, looking for opportunities to gun down challengers to white privilege and power. Color is a price on your head.

“Gun!” and you’re gone.  Someone says that triggering word, and you’re life is brought to its legal end.  A phony 911 call can be your death warrant.

Can I still believe that there exists a preponderance of officers who can be counted on to conduct themselves professionally, as public servants on whom we all depend? Or will they hide behind their badges?

Whatever the color of our skin, we have to call upon our troubled police forces, themselves, to step out and help. They must hold themselves accountable, to humanity and the law, to purge the violent from their ranks; and we must hold governmental officials accountable to purge the culture of violence from our police forces.

I don’t feel confident that it can be done. And how long will it take, a generation? Immediately, we must at least stop the killing.

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