There have been numerous incidents and tragic experiences where law enforcement has abused their authority when confronting the African-American community. I am not sure what is worse, police brutality or the omission and/or justification of it from other cultures. The unnecessary force used has triggered some serious outrage as many witnessed recently in Baltimore. While reports are questioning the validity of the accusations in Baltimore, some of the more well-known occurrences took place in Ferguson, New York, Cleveland and South Carolina.
There are thousands of officers enlisted in the United States who have sworn to protect the millions of people who call themselves Americans. Admittedly, their job is stressful and often very difficult, but this does not excuse them when they inappropriately use excessive force. While there are some law enforcement agents that are guilty of being prejudice or egotistical and possessing their own agendas, it would be irresponsible not to make mention that all cops are not bad and many have not taken part in the abuse called police brutality.
Many young men in the African-American community are victims of single-parents homes, while several others are survivors of the same situation. Recently CNN showed a single mother as she sought to physically correct her son in hopes of averting him from being arrested or falling into other trouble by participating in the riots taking place in Baltimore. This woman has six children, but only one son. Despite the controversy surrounding her manner of discipline, she realized early on if she did not take the necessary measures to keep her son on a straight path, he could easily end up a victim of police brutality.
Unfortunately, this is not a new struggle but one for the ages. Black men have always felt like second class citizens having to work twice as hard to prove themselves. Since it seems inevitable, at least within the current generation, here are a few tips that may help when attempting to successfully co-exist with police. There is no guarantee that these tips will cause you to be victorious when dealing with law enforcement, but they will surely lessen the risk of an incident involving the loss of life.
- Educate children early: Children need to be taught about police brutality at an early age. The have to know the importance of being respectful overall, but more importantly when dealing with law enforcement. Discuss current events so they are aware of the pending dangers if they should break the law or get harassed for no apparent reason. They need to know how to conduct themselves to avoid becoming victims of police brutality.
- Obey the law: Law breakers have the highest risk of dealing with police. If this should happen, it is important to cooperate with the officer’s request in order to avoid being arrested. Safety should always precede ego when involved in a confrontation with law enforcement, even if they are wrong. It has already been proven, even with the use of video footage, their ego will usually outrank that of an African-American civilian.
- Obey the officer: When the officer asks a request within reason, just do it. Often times they are simply trying to do their job and avoid kickback. Failing to obey their orders will only worsen the situation and increase the risk of a physical altercation.
- Be respectful: Immediately greet the officer with respect in hopes of de-escalating their preconceived or stereotypical ideas of Black America. Even if you disagree with their reason for stopping you, they have the final authority. Avoid becoming aggressive and refuse the urge to mouth off. This will only worsen the situation.
- Avoid contributing to the stigma: Make wise decisions when hanging out late and avoid keeping company with known law breakers. Be sure your license plates are valid and registration stickers are up to date. If there is a high probability of crime taking place in an area frequented, be quick to make an exit.
Parents should teach these tips to their children early. The primary responsibility rests on the parents. Toya Graham, famed Baltimore mom, said she does not want her 16-year-old son to become another Freddie Gray. Graham took matters into her own hands, literally, but knows her son will eventually appreciate her efforts to averting potential danger. Many people took to Twitter to criticize her, but these are likely the same people who would not blink an eye if her son ended up a victim of police brutality.
Hopefully these tips, along with parental intervention, will avoid negative interactions with law enforcement. These are in no way designed to downplay the obvious issues. The goal is to help African-Americans understand engaging an officer properly can de-escalate the situation, and hopefully avoid a deadly altercation. Admittedly, if a police officer wants to use violence against a civilian, he or she will. You cannot control what the officer chooses to do, but you can control your actions and hopefully emerge on the winning site of the confrontation.
Opinion by Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
Top Image Courtesy of Stephen Melkisethian – Creativecommons Flickr License
Featured Image Courtesy of Michael Fleshman – Creativecommons Flickr License