Let's call bad acts what they are when it comes to black and blue
Posted July 25, 2016
In an argument over whose lives matter and whether one should support blacks or the police, Montrell Jackson may have understood what was at stake on both sides more than most. He was genuinely black and blue, an African-American who served for 10 years on the Baton Rouge police force.
Social media is flooded this week with one of his posts about the heartache he felt as his city erupted following the death of Alton Sterling in an officer-involved shooting in the city he loved and was hired to protect.
Jackson was among officers murdered this weekend in an ambush that was breathtaking for its cowardice and pointlessness. He leaves behind a wife and very young son.
He also leaves a haunting social media post that deserves to be shared and acted upon.
On July 8, Jackson wrote about being a cop and a black man in a world that increasingly seems to choose sides on many topics, including this one. In either role, he felt some hostility from others. In his words: "… In uniform I get nasty, hateful looks and out of uniform some consider me a threat."
It is probably not possible for those of us who are white to understand what it is like to be black in a society that denies racism despite statistics that show how disproportionately blacks are punished compared to others in many ways, not just our justice system. Nor is it possible for those of us who do not wear the uniform to understand all the ingredients that may mix to make a police encounter volatile.
Jackson was not interested in deepening wounds or broadening the chasm between people. Instead, he sought a bridge: “Please don’t let hate infect your heart. This city MUST and WILL get better. I’m working in these streets so any protesters, officers, friends, family or whoever, if you see me and need a hug or want to say a prayer, I got you.”
It was a far different message from what CNN reported the killer wrote on social media. Under a pseudonym (hiding again, as heroes don't), he is said to have praised the Dallas murderer, calling him "one of us! #MY Religion is Justice."
In coming days, people will dissect what happened and what the killings mean and some will try to use the shooting of black men to justify the killing of cops, while others will use the shooting of police as justification to ignore real concerns of those who know racism is not simply an artifact of a different era.
Both groups will be wrong — and can do grave damage to a country that needs more of what Jackson offered: a willingness to try to heal genuine hurt.
If someone claims he’s killing cops to better society, he lies. You can’t create a just society with an unjust, hateful act. Cruelty has no healing power. Peel away the pretense and all you find is a killer — and a cowardly one.
We should label appropriately those who commit such acts. They are murderers who might as easily have opted to mow down restaurant patrons or plant bombs along a marathon route. They could have become highway snipers or serial killers who prey on children. Their actions cannot be glorified as some kind of “eye for an eye” balancing of scales.
None of us has to choose between police or our black neighbors and friends. Do not contribute to chaos. We can reject racism in policing and demand better training and accountability while respecting the majority of officers who do a very hard and dangerous job each day. Society needs them to thrive. We must consider how we choose sides and how our own comments and posts create a sense that stupid, cruel acts have justification.
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