By Mark Naison
The United States is a rapidly changing society in ways that complicate the debate over the deaths of Michael Brown and Evan Garner. There are now many whites who are part of multiracial extended families and have partners, children, or grandchildren who are people of color; an experience which may lead them to identify powerfully with people of color who fear being targets of racial profiling. In debates this group may find itself at odds with whites who are police officers or who have police officers in their families. I am not saying that all views on issues of this kind are determined by kinship and friendship, but they are influences that need to be taken into account.
I can understand people being protective of police, especially those who have police officers in their family. But there are serious questions regarding how police function in Black and Latino communities that have to be talked about honestly when highly publicized deaths of unarmed people bring underlying tensions to the surface.
As someone who has dealt with police community issues in the Bronx for more than 15 years, I can tell you that there are many law abiding people in that borough who are as afraid of the police as they are of gang members and drug dealers. And the Bronx is hardly the only place in the nation where that is true. There are serious questions regarding how police are deployed and who controls their actions that need to be discussed. But first you have to recognize that there is a problem, which is not the same thing as blaming police officers as individuals
Subversive Thought for the Day:
Police Departments, like the Departments of Education which run our schools, are government agencies. And in a nation where powerful corporations and the very rich have disproportionate power, isn’t it possible that police policies, like school policies, can be molded to serve the interests of the powerful, leaving individual police officers, like individual teachers, little control over the rules they operate by? Something to consider in the light of recent tragedies. Maybe the problem is with those shaping policy, not those implementing it.