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Hands Up, Don't Shoot? I'm Offended

By       Message Pamela Gist     Permalink
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From Hands up don't shoot
Hands up don't shoot
(image by Rose Colored Photo)

The St. Louis police were "offended" a few weeks ago by a few of the Rams' players showing solidarity against police violence, and this required an apology? What happened to free speech in the United States?

Well I'm offended, too.

I'm offended that my male Latino and African American colleagues can reasonably expect trouble from the police whenever they're in public. I am a privileged, professional white woman in my 50s, who has no reason to expect problems with the police. But the same cannot be said for my friends and colleagues of color; not because of anything they've done wrong, but simply because of their gender and the color of their skin.

I'm offended that up to 1,000 individuals are killed by U.S. police each year. And according to research performed by ProPublica journalists, black teenagers in the U.S. are 21 times more likely to be shot by police officers than white teenagers.

I'm offended that racism is so prevalent in our society that a police officer can view a 12-year-old child as a demon just because he's black, or see a sandwich as a gun, just because the person holding it is African American. I have no doubt that these police officers saw what they report they saw, because that is how the mind works under the influence of racism and fear, combined with the need to make quick judgments.

I'm offended that inappropriate officer-involved shootings too often appear to involve officers with a history of using inappropriate force. Why are these officers still on the street, escalating the violence?

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I'm offended that what appears to be a minority of police officers using inappropriate force colors my impression of all police officers, police departments and police culture -- in part because the police appear to close ranks around these individuals and protect them, rather than weed them out. It's normal for members of a group to come together to protect each other, but sometimes that can do more harm to the group. Anything the police can do to lessen that "us versus them" mentality, which separates officers from their own communities (such as living in the community, and community policing), would reduce some of the negative impacts of having a strong group identity.

I'm offended that our police are not better trained to value and preserve life. What happened to the moniker "peace officers" and the goal "to protect and serve?" Why aren't our police trained to save lethal force for a last resort, using other weapons first, rather than pulling a gun so quickly?

I'm offended that the police officers I was raised to respect and trust, to go to when I need assistance, today walk like gunslingers, hands hovering near their weapons, appearing ever ready to draw.

I'm offended that when I have a positive encounter with the police today it is the exception rather than the rule. The majority of the time I interact with police I experience them as bullies, intoxicated with their power

I'm offended that my country's police are buying and accepting donations of military equipment, and are beginning to look like the terrifying police I encounter in some other countries when I travel, rather than the peace officer who is supposed to protect me. More weapons don't make me feel more protected; they make me more frightened.

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I'm offended that some of our country's police officers find themselves so terrified in the face of African Americans, Latinos, and the homeless that these officers succumb to their fear. Can't we help change this mindset? Community policing, requiring police to live where they work, and frequent interventions designed to reduce fear and prejudice on the force would go a long way to improving the situation.

I'm offended that 60 years after Brown vs. the Board of Education overturned Plessy v. Ferguson; 50 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Mississippi's "Freedom Summer" and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. winning the Nobel Peace Prize; 20 years after Cornell West's Race Matters was published; and 15 years after the Amadou Diallo shooting by the NYPD, we're still debating whether the lives of people of color matter in this country.

I'm offended that after the grand jury verdict in Ferguson, police protected the white side of town and left the black side of town undefended. When buildings and cars were torched and stores looted on the black side of town, the police reportedly stood by and watched.

I'm offended that people for whom the "justice system" is seldom fair, let alone just, who waited for the grand jury decision -- trying to give the system a chance before reacting with understandable anger at being let down yet again -- are criticized for not believing in the system, not using the system, not working within the system.

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As a National Science Foundation graduate fellow, Pam earned her Ph.D. in Social Psychology at the University of Michigan in 1995. Her passion for teaching next led her to Mount St. Mary's College (in Los Angeles), one of the few remaining (more...)

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Hands Up, Don't Shoot? I'm Offended