“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” – John Acton
The killing of innocent lives is never good, whether the lives are lost here or abroad and whoever the victims are, the loss of innocent lives is never good. The killing of innocent lives that distract from fixing the current problem with policing in our communities is even worse. The last thing that we needed to happen were more innocent black men killed and innocent policeman shot in cold blood, and most of America and the world, had to sit and watch. Some wept, some were confused, mystified, and others were mad. I couldn’t help but think about what the continual root cause of the problem.
Whose hands are truly stained with blood? I can give you a little hint, but it’s not just the Police, and it’s definitely not the innocent people who continue to die simply for the color of their skin.
It’s power. Power corrupts. The duty to protect and serve is a power, and if abused, can be a matter of life or death. Sometimes power corrupts a good police officer. Sometimes it makes a bad police officer worse, but this power is nothing compared to the truly powerful people who aren’t doing anything to fix a broken system. A system that has been broken for years, decades. In fact, it seems to me that they prefer to allow the viscous cycle of power to churn out the same story and it’s getting worse.
Police officers are given a certain of lever of power in their jobs, because they are asked to enforce the law. Crime and violence does occur in many urban communities across the country, and the law needs to be enforced. But power corrupts. We all see this in any workplace where bad managers and directors mistreat employees simply because they can.
Often times, people of color experience this “power” of the law by the hand of police, when police are simply doing their job. Whether it’s because they are getting evicted, parents are being arrested for petty or serious crimes or kids are being removed from their home because of abuse or neglect. Other times they experience this “power” so unjustly by being racially profiled for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Rarely are any of these interactions positive.
So if Police are given the power to monitor communities, and are often above reproach, what about the ones who are corrupted by power? That is why we see police brutality. Daniel Holtzclaw, the Oklahoma City police officer, who was sentenced to 263 years in prison for raping women of color abused the power of his badge.
I am saying the blame on the police and the violence/crime in these communities of color, at times, is unfair, because the system has been built to create vulnerable citizens, first, who then have to live and die by the hands of ill-trained and sometimes underfunded police departments.
The famous quote by Thomas Moore says it best:
“For if you suffer your people to be ill-educated, and their manners to be corrupted from their infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded from this, but that you first make thieves and then punish them.”
The lack of good education, the inability to make a decent wage or to find gainful employment (convicted felons), you cannot help but expect some people to turn to crime. These actions stem from the difficulty to reach the “American Dream”. We then ask police officers to enforce laws against those who have been rejected and hurt by the system. And now, many police departments have lowered their standards for police officers to ensure that they have enough officers on the force. Thus creating a problem of police officers who are too young and ill-trained. Seems to me that the police and the people in the communities of color are stuck in a deadly hamster reel.
The logical next step is to think who gives the power of the law. The police do not give this power to themselves. And more over, who has the power to improve the minimum wage, improve our educational system or the justice system and to create better programs for our convicted felons.
Politicians. Elected officials. “Leaders”.
America has stacked the cards against the most vulnerable, and asked police officers to enforce the laws against them, no matter the cost. We know that the prison system in this country is a billion dollar industry. This is not a conspiracy. This is the reality of the cycle of power that we have allowed to take place. When they talk about making America “great” again, we will never be able to move forward as nation, if we continue down this road.
So what can be done? Pay attention to what’s going on in your community, and not just the Presidential election. Who are your local politicians, what’s going on in state and local politics, who serves on your school boards and are you paying attention to where the money is going? We must hold them accountable. Like actually, pay attention and hold them accountable. People with the time and/or the aptitude to do something, must act. We cannot expect our most vulnerable to have the time or the capacity to fight.
So am I saying it is our responsibility to do something?
Yes I am.
We are not talking about giving handouts or throwing money at a problem. I am talking about making sure our laws are just, and the people that we elect into our offices have our best interests in mind. People like to joke that the Founding Fathers were slave owners among other things, but there are positive legacies that they left behind. They created a system of laws and separation of powers, and a place for people to be heard. But we are not using our voices effectively. Especially those who are in a position to do more. Because we must remember, the difference between ourselves and the most vulnerable, is that we were just dealt different cards. We should be thankful, and make a difference in their lives.