Compiance vs. Enforcement 

I do not want to hear about how this is not a black issue. Or black lives don’t matter more than others so the #blacklivesmatter movement is unnecessary. I don’t want to hear about how the police are to protect and to serve because for the vast majority of black Americans, the boys in blue are there to do anything but protect or serve. 

I was stunned to see and hear the cities finest respond to a call by a mother asking for help with her schizophrenic son. (http://thisweekinblackness.com/elon-james-white/within-19-seconds-cops-shoot-mentally-ill-man-holding-screwdriver/ ) the police arrive and she informed them again that he has a screwdriver and he is mentally challenged. When he arrives at the door of his own home with his mother there, the police see a very small screwdriver in his hand. Who knows if he was just fixing a loose screw or if the only loose screw was one or more of the people present. What we do know is that not 19 seconds after arrival the police escalate the situation to the point of their gunning down the man amidst yelled orders and fear filled reactions. I am not a doctor, but I am quite sure that if. Alerts on is schizophrenic, that person will not react as you might expect by escalating and yelling at him. Certainly not being yelled at by multiple voices. 

So yet another black man is murdered and the police are the killers. Can you imagine the horror and dismay the mother has? She called the police to help. Instead they killed. And even the police knew they were wrong because immediately after killing him, they clearly said they can’t talk about this right now. Body cameras on, voices being recorded. Clearly they knew they were at least on thin ice and needed a chance to get their stories straight before the police supervisor showed up or media arrived.  

This is a clear indication and reminders of why there is so little trust between the black and brown in society today. Because more often than not, we as black and brown Americans, are seen as agitators and not agreeable. Situations instead of citizens. Monsters instead of men. Something to be afraid of rather than someone to be friends with. 

How many more of my brothers and sisters must die before this is taken seriously? How many? 

I recently was at a continuing education seminar. In that seminar we were taught that our greatest desire as officials should be to move from the realm of enforcement and into the land of compliance. Being a compliance officer means that communications no relationship has been established.  That the citizens and the officers have entered into dialogue and gotten to know one another as people. Not just as statistics. Compliance is part of an education process.  It means that the citizens who act under the law have had an opportunity to be educated by the officers and the relationship is not confrontational or adversarial. Why? Because they know each other. They don’t feel afraid of one another. 

Fear is a serious and real byproduct of unfamiliarity. You’ve heard the phrase we are the unknown. There’s a reason why the movies intended to scare us have shadows playing against walls. Dark figures lurking around corners.  Hidden faces under cloaks. We fear what we are unfamiliar with. What we cannot see. What we do not know. Who we do not know. The melts dangerous person is the one that is unpredictable and nothing causes unpredictable behavior like not knowing how someone will act. And we do not know how someone will act if they are afraid because when we are afraid we react counter to logic. 

This is an open appeal for compliance. Not enforcement. Familiarity not fear. This is a call for the end of fear based enforcement centered policing and a beginning of community based compliance centered policing.  We need the police. Yes we do. But what would the police do if we decided we no longer want or need them? It’s terribly shortsighted to expect the citizens to be good citizens if the citizens are nothing short of frightened of the very service providers that we are expected to to trust. 

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Inconvenient, isn’t it?

“Your order please?”

 “I’ll have the eggs Benedict and I’d like those blacks over there to stop interrupting my brunch.”

 “Certainly, sir. Right away, sir” 

 I have read very little about this new effort at raising public consciousness to the #blacklivesmatter movement. So what I’m say here will come off as uniformed and highly anecdotal. But I also hope you see the honesty and real effort to understand behind my uniformed words.

News reports boil down to the statement that a group of black youths are entering public institutions clad head to toe in black clothing. Literally black clothing reminiscent of the classic Janet Jackson Rhythm Nation album. Upon entering, they commence to protest by in effect being a 4 and a-half minute disruption to the brunch. The reactions from all observing varied wildly from bemuse stares to angry tweets.

What happens to a people when they feel that they are not be listened to? How do they react? How do you want them to react? How can the ignored among us raise their voices at once and be heard, but not disturb your quiet life? 

Al Gore many years ago had the audacity to make a movie. After he sat in the chair of Vice President for eight years he tried his hand at raising public consciousness on arguably the most important issue of the day that no one was willing to have an honest discussion about. He called the movement and call to consciousness “An Inconvenient Truth”. The point to his movie and years of research was not that the earth is warming. Not that one political wing or another was ignor the issue. Not even that the media was negligent in its reporting duties. His point was simple and universal. That the truth is just that. And often times it is inconvenient. But that doesn’t make it any less true. 

So I’ve looked at and listened to the news recently with ever deepening sadness. The weather is cruel, and the winter blahs I’ve heard so much about are starting to actually affect me. I have no memory of feeling this way towards the snow. Not in 1978. Not last winter and in no point in between. But for some inexplicable reason I see that most people’s attitudes and feelings have hardened as the the ice on my walk. I am beginning to wonder if the boots I don daily will ever be divested of my weary and chilled toes. It has become less a fun thing to play in with my children. And more an irritant that prevents me from getting to work early never mind on time. For me, the snow has become inconvenient. 

I do not blame the weather man for his report any more than a recipient of bad news should blame the messenger. It is simply the fact that the news is unwelcome. 107 inches or more snow is not something the government requested from on high. It is not something that the national weather service suggested we are due. The snow is not something the children requested in an effort to avoid homework assignments. It is pointless to call out Canada as the source of my woes and malcontent. As good as it may make me feel to blame any and all of those sources, it will not solve my issue. That the winter is longer than expected and I must face it head on and deal. 

I’m reminded of the tale of the buffalo and the cow. A great plain covered with browning grasses was home to a herd of cows and a herd of buffalo. Without much warning the snow came with great winds at its heels. The rush of snow fiercely attacked the herds without mercy. The cows in an effort to avoid the snow, turned from the snow and raced along in hopes of outrunning it. Perhaps to get ahead of the worst of it. But they were only successful in prologing the storm because the weather was more adept at keeping pace with them. So the storm stayed with them a long time. The buffalo turned and faced the storm. They turned and faced it with a stalwart determination and huddled into a pattern that shelter the youngest in the center while those with the thickest hair stood shoulder to shoulder and gave no quarter to the snow. Soon the snow passed over and around the buffalo but it did not get in and conquer. Was the snow any more or less humbling for the cows than the buffalo. No it was the same storm.  But the defense is how they faced it. And though the storm was terribly inconvenient to their grazing plans, this did not cause the buffalo to lose heart and run. 

So I think about the black brunches. There are few public places that people of access and means can go where they feel truly separated from the rest of the rabble. Divided from and (dare I say) segregated from the masses that are, for them, quite inconvenient. So it becomes even more important that their bubble of comfort be disrupted. In other words, the truth is being made inconvenient upon them. The Sunday brunch is the last bastion of “civilized” wealth usually in country clubs, cigar bars, and the like. 

By going to these places, disrupting the business as usual and being inconvenient, the truth can be shared with folks who otherwise can turn a deaf ear to the truth. That life is fleeting and cheap in the eyes of some. That social justice is not a buzz phrase that plays well on David Letterman or CNN. When a life is lost to violence wherever the violence comes from. It diminishes us all.