What about the Police?
During the presidential debate, Secretary Clinton said something political leaders hardly ever say – that we must address implicit bias and work on systemic racism.
For those of us sympathetic to the cause of Black Lives Matter this is a small and significant step towards progress. For those of us who know police officers and know they aren’t biased or racist, Secretary Clinton’s words are offensive. Who’s right?
When I first started attending a Unitarian Universalist congregation, I was still in the Army National Guard as a Nuclear Biological Chemical Specialist. I was getting ready to dispose of Saddam Hussien’s chemical weapons and protect our troops against the use of sarin gas. It was a dangerous job that few other people wanted to do, and I was ready to do it.
One of the earliest memories I have as a Unitarian Universalist is a member of the social justice committee calling me evil, because to her, anyone who joined the military signed up to kill others. She was morally opposed to the entire institution of the military that I grew up in, and to any individual who voluntarily signed up to join. Especially people who would be in combat situations as I would have been in.
I never deployed because there were no weapons of mass destruction. Our intelligence reported, before 2003 ‘Shock and Awe’ campaign into Iraq, that Saddam had destroyed his chemical stockpiles and lied about having them to maintain his defense posture. When I realized this, I could no longer serve in the military and joined a group called Iraq Veterans Against the War.
That was my personal choice that I made as an individual. I still love the military, its culture, and the people in it. I blame no individual when they join, and there are heroic people in the military who I admire. However, the public must challenge the military industrial complex. It must reform so we can avoid unilateral and unending wars that hurt us at home and abroad.
The majority of the people in the Black Lives Matter movement feel the same. An individual police officer is not the problem. If it were, then the issue would be simpler to resolve. The problem is the system which puts the police in an impossible situation.
That’s why the platform calling for change from Black Lives Matter addresses systemic issues. It doesn’t call for an end to the police – it asks for more community control. (You can read the whole platform here: https://policy.m4bl.org/
downloads/ ) Police know that community policing is far more efficient than stop-and-frisk or broken windows policing. The movement and the best policies of the institution line up – so what is holding us back from fixing this?
All of us need to step back from our individual lives and the people we love and look at the whole. We must see where humanity is flourishing and hurting, and ask the profound questions of how we got to this point. We must know our connection to the larger part of humanity and understand our responsibility for tending to it. We must learn to love the whole. To vilify the individual, either the police officer or the African-American who lost their life will create an impassable gap. We must learn to love the whole as much as we love those we know.
Rev. Shawna Foster