Late this October, a South Carolina high school fired a white in-school resource officer named Ben Fields for using excessive force against a Black female student. In a widely circulated video, Fields can be seen grabbing the student’s neck, slamming her to the floor, and dragging her across the room — all because she allegedly refused to turn over her cell phone. Though there are many issues at play in this altercation, whether it be the systemic issue of the teacher’s decision to rely on a police officer to resolve a non-disruptive dispute, or the utter lack of empathy for this young woman and her difficult situation, I’d like to focus in on one particular critique: the disturbing amount of support this and other officers receive when unlawfully assaulting minors, men, and women — a disproportionate amount of whom being people of color.
The rhetoric used to defend this grown man’s violent assault against a minor is about as new as the occurrence of these incidents themselves. This impulse to exonerate law enforcement officers actions despite tangible evidence of racial bias and excessive force is commonplace in how we discuss these issues and inequitable in its distribution to all those affected. With that being said, I’ve whipped up a resource, a check-list of some sorts, both for anyone foolish enough to use this rhetoric and to those tired of hearing it. With that, I present to you…
How to Not Perpetuate Racism and be a Decent Human Being For Dummies, Volume 1 of however many more it takes for y’all to get it.
In this edition, we’ll be discussing the many problematic concepts used to defend police brutality against people of color. Below, I’ve listed problematic statements, appropriate response to those claims, and an example of how you might express your discontent to anyone dense enough to speak of such foolery.
“S/he should’ve followed orders.”
“All lives matter.”
How convenient of a time for you to expression your humanity…
Oh, I didn’t know disobedience equates to deadly force. I had no idea that noncompliance permits nonexistence.
“We don’t know all the details.”
Ah, good one. Though, maybe your intentions aren’t that bad…so long as you’re not using ‘details’ to defend illegal chokeholds, excessive force against children, or anything terrible like that. That would be awful.
“S/he has a black [insert irrelevant acquaintance]!”
Is that supposed to absolve one of their actions? If that’s the case, I know lots of women! I even have a sister! Nope. Still doesn’t mean I can assault them.
“[Victim] was no angel.”
No explanation needed, just this…
“Let the police do their job.”
Racial profiling is in their job description. When my melanin is no longer criminalized in this country, then we can talk.
“Blah blah blah THUGS.”
No. Just…no. Please take several seats and watch this video.
“Not all police are bad.”
Good people can exist under oppressive institutions. Also, please feel free to substitute the word ‘police’ interchangeably with Black, brown, or whatever’s most fitting towards your personal prejudice whenever you insist on using that sentence.
“It’s not only White cops who do this!”
Systemic: done or acting according to a fixed plan or system.
Synonyms: methodical, organized, structured.
Used in a sentence, “Systemic racism is the perpetuation of racial injustice through institutions, not necessarily the color of skin of the individual practicing it.”
Examples: Don Lemon, Uncle Ruckus, David A. Clarke.
“The cop felt threatened.”
“PUT DOWN YOUR WEAPON!” *drops degree*
I get it though, I really do. It’s a dangerous job. That’s why officers have the Use of Force Continuum, you know, the standard that requires them to match the level of force potentially exerted on them. Interesting how the gun is often the first weapon drawn…
“The cop was following protocol.”
Just because you say it, doesn’t make it true.
If you ever find yourself, your friends, or the insistent anonymous commenter using any of these or similar statements to defend any forms of police brutality, please refer back to this resource. This is here to help you. We can all be decent human beings if we try hard enough, though it shouldn’t ever have to take this much effort.