Years go Queen Latifah had a hit record “Latifah’s Had it Up to Here.” The song pretty much summed up how the she felt about crab rappers and anyone else trying to dis her. Well, today I’m putting out my version, “Oseye’s Had it Up to Here,” and while I’m not speaking to rappers or other journalists, I am speaking to those who continue to put the onus of solving relations between the Black community and police on African Americans.
We’re continually told that a good relationship between African Americans and the police is a two-way street. We have to do our part to mend what’s broken.
No, we don’t.
I don’t hear anyone telling white people they need to attend meetings, picnics in the park or workshops to repair their relationship with the police. That’s because, for white people, the relationship isn’t broken. As a whole, white people see police officers in a different light. They trust them. It’s the kind of trust that many Black people had as children before real-life incidents slowly caused that trust to deteriorate. The incidents don’t have to be big, either. Indeed, it’s often the small ones over time that do more damage, it seems. Little seeds of doubt about our ability to trust the police often begin during childhood.
Once I was pulled over with my 5-year-old son in the car. I guess we looked suspicious because I didn’t get a ticket or even a warning. After looking into my car and seeing a young mom and her child, the cops told me to go. However, when my son saw the cop walking on his side of the car and the other one on my side, he was terrified and confused. A seed planted.
Now, fast forward many years later and after someone hit my car, the police officer on the scene gave my daughter a stuffed animal to comfort her. Another seed planted.
One incident illustrates how you chip away at trust little by little, and the other shows how you build it. Both times the onus was on the officer — not me.
Yes, it is my responsibility to be a law-abiding citizen, but that’s it. I don’t have to hold hands and sing “Kumbaya” with police officers for them to not abuse me or the people who look like me. Are we forgetting that those of us who pay taxes actually pay the salaries of these officers? They are a part of our local government, and government is accountable to “We the people.” We deserve much better treatment than we receive.
If those who purport to want to improve relations between the Black community and police really want to do what they say they want to do, then they will hold police accountable for dismantling an institution that is based on white supremacy. Policing in this country started with slave patrols. Those patrols hunted escaped slaves and took them back to their masters. The first one was formalized in 1704. Institutional racism has been a part of policing since day one. Police chiefs, police officers and others in law enforcement have to do the hard work of figuring out how to remove the racism in their institution.
I don’t know any Black person who doesn’t want to feel safe. I don’t know any Black person who grew up thinking they would fear or dislike police officers as adults. We know we may need the help of a police officer at some point in our lives. However, we don’t want to have to think a call to 911 could be the last call ever made.