Race Relations and Cooperative Policing

The past year has unveiled a gaping, festering wound in our society. Recent events command our attention to the unresolved distrust which persists between our authority figures and our communities of color. As a candidate for a local elective office, I feel that it is essential for me to say something about this. Instead of screaming past one another, avoiding one another, and maintaining a comfortable existence in an impermeable bubble, we must resolve to break this vicious cycle by stepping beyond this imprisoning mindset and opening ourselves - as well as our culture - to a new realm of possibilities. What I'm suggesting is the radical idea that people - regardless of race, ethnicity, religious background, etc. - sit down in a diverse setting and engage in an honest, candid discussion with our fellow citizens.

Believe me, I know, the very thought of allowing yourself to be forthright about how you feel with complete strangers who have little in common with you is a tad frightening. Contemplating this scenario creates a similar psychological reaction as when you strip your clothes and enter a public place in your dreams, but the truth is liberating when you let it flow from your lips and when you reciprocate by intently listening to what others have to say. I'm confident in the power and importance of such discourse because I have recently partaken in a set of frank talks about race with people of varying backgrounds. While the meetings I've attended barely scratched the surface of this complicated issue, they gave me a sense of the wonderful possibilities available if we only try.

Think of it this way: in a marriage - or any relationship, for that matter -, the most important tool to making such work is communication. Open and honest communication amongst all in a relationship provides a foundation of trust. Once that trust is established and maintained, the relationship/marriage transforms into a partnership without limits as to what it can accomplish. On the flipside, the moment either side permits the line of communication to break down - through lies, omission, secrecy, avoidance, etc. -, then the partnership reverts to a bitter partnership/marriage bound for collapse. Is it too much to ask that the people of our societal family take a seat around the same table on a regular basis to do something as simple as talk about our concerns and hopes, in addition to reaching an understanding as to what we need to do in order to move forward together?

Letting go of our inhibitions and approaching fellow citizens who look, sound, and believe differently isn't just important for beginning a long-overdue healing process, but it is crucial to unite us as a people. As one, we the people have the ability to alter our reality and can set the stage for the next generation to achieve a great many wonderful things that we never used to think was possible. Also, in the spirit of unity, the people can work collectively with our authority figures to guarantee a safe and secure home for all. Again, this is a goal which depends on communication.

As it currently stands, a disturbing number of communities have an engrained distrust for law enforcement. For any number of reasons, they don't feel safe when the police arrive on the scene. Likewise, it is relevant to note that our adversarial culture - exacerbated by the media as well as our upbringing in the aforementioned bubbles - has led some of our brave uniformed men and women (and yes, they are brave, for putting that uniform on is equal to placing a big red target on each of their backs) to arrive on the scene with a degree of fear for what might happen next. The end result is often a struggle between two - or more - people perceiving their role therein as little more than a fight for justice. "Justice" here is a term that can be a matter of perspective, and our undeniably dark history further complicates the definition thereof.

Are there bad actors on both sides? Most definitely, but we aren't going to resolve this conflict simply by pointing the finger at said actors and then using those examples as an excuse not to engage one another. No, what we need isn't more conflict, but rather more cooperation. As is the case in dealing with race relations in general, the solution can only be found in regular, open, honest communication. A partnership must be established between our communities of color and law enforcement.

Perhaps each city (including our own) and/or community leaders can facilitate such by hosting routine get togethers with the police. What harm could come from having our citizens and officers having conversations much like the candid race discussions mentioned earlier? Maybe, just maybe, opening the door between these two worlds will free us to finally work together in ensuring that the place we call home is protected and that order is kept. Establishing a bridge of trust between authority figures and all communities would eventually enable those communities to trust that they can turn to the authorities when trouble emerges and could free those wearing a badge from the fear that they will be dispatched into hostile territory.

There is a better way to live life, and there is a better way to protect it. The answer is to stop pretending that there isn't a problem and to take this bull by the horns...together.


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