What’s Going On?

I’ve seen what’s happened in the United States in the last couple of weeks or so. It’s ugly and it needs to stop. It’s all over social media and the television. It’s not all ugly. I’ve seen people reaching out from both sides. But is it enough? I think there are some people who are unwilling to reach out.

I hear people saying that “if they’d just comply” and then hear “it’s not enough to comply, they want us to submit”. My first thought was, “Submit to what?” Today, I was thinking about that. It’s semantics. If you look up “comply” in a thesaurus, “submit” is listed as a synonym. They mean the SAME thing. Your argument is invalid. To me, what you just said is that you have a problem with complying with law enforcement.

I hear people saying how they’ve had to teach their children how to behave if approached by a cop because of how they may be treated. I can’t speak to the second part of that as I’ve never had a bad experience with any law enforcement officer but, I CAN speak to the first part. I was taught as a child to show respect to adults and to people of authority; teachers and police officers for example. As I got older and started driving, it was reiterated. If you’re pulled over, you stay in the car, keep your hands on the steering wheel so that the officer can see them, don’t make any sudden or quick movements and you behave in a cooperative, respectful, and polite manner. I was also taught that if I were alone, it was dark, and in an isolated area and I felt uncomfortable about being pulled over, to continue to drive, slowly, somewhere where there would be people. Preferably a police station if there was one nearby. Once pulled over, explain to the office why you did that. I can’t say that this last part is acceptable according to law enforcement and I can’t speak from experience.  So, please don’t take this as solid advice. It’s just what I was taught.

When my child started driving, I told her the same thing. She’s also been told to let the officer know (she’s not driving her own car) that the owner of the car has a carry conceal license (I figure the officer will know this once he runs the plates) and that she does not, but that there’s no firearm in the vehicle. Again, this is why I tell her to make no sudden movements. Only move when the officer tells you to and do so SLOWLY. You need to make sure the officer knows that you are not a threat to his safety. If he or she feels that their life is at risk, they’re going to pull their weapon. It’s that simple. If she remains calm, speaks in a polite manner (not yelling and cursing), and does as she’s instructed (complies) she’ll either get a warning or a ticket and everyone goes about their merry way.

I hear people saying that cops treat blacks and whites differently. Maybe they do and maybe they don’t. I, like everyone else, can only speak from experience; what I’ve seen, read, and heard. And let’s be completely honest. Not everything you see, read, or hear is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Not just that, but audio and video don’t tell the entire story. You have NO idea what happened, or what was said, before the recording started. How many people take that into account before they start handing out judgments? How many people hear, read, or see ONE version of something and make a FINAL decision? Most people I know, once they’ve made up their mind about something, they’re not going to change it. They hop on one side of the fence, they’re staying there. Even when I’m speaking from experience, it’s MY perspective of what happened. It’s MY version of the truth. That doesn’t mean that it’s the same perspective or truth of the others that were there.

I listen to several versions of the story. Read several articles. I question everything. And, I’m always willing to jump the fence.

Also, I’m SO tired of people making the comparison, the cause and effect, of what happens when a white person is pulled over versus what happens when a black person is pulled over by a cop. First off, if you’re going to make a comparison and have me (or anyone with any sense) believe you, you’re going to have to compare apples to apples. Comparing apples to oranges just isn’t going to cut it. Meaning, there are multiple variables and you can’t contribute the difference in the outcome to race or to race alone. Meaning, I need to see the same cop pull over a white male and a black male around the same age, driving similar cars, in a similar location, around the same time of day or night, for the same offence, and their behavior be the same or very similar. Otherwise, the difference could be attributed to something else.

Say for example, a cop pulls over a young man, say around 17, driving a very expensive vehicle, at 3 am, in an area known for illegal activity, say drugs and/or prostitution. He was speeding. Let’s say this young man hasn’t been taught to respect law enforcement. The officer approaches the car, the guy gets out and starts yelling and cursing and waving his arms around. Automatically the officer is going to go on the defensive. I would. The officer is likely going to tell him to stop, get on the ground. He may pull his service revolver.  Either way, if he does as he’s instructed, the situation deescalated. But, if he keep approaching the officer, all the while yelling obscenities, and then reaches his hand behind him, the situation can turn fatal. He could’ve been reaching for his wallet. But, given the situation, how is the officer supposed to know he’s not reaching for a gun? Should he wait a couple seconds to find out? Yes? Now the officer is wounded or dead. No? The young man in the expensive car is wounded or dead. It sucks either way. But, you know as well as I do that self-preservation kicks in. The officer’s training kicks in. He’s not going to wait to find out what the young man is going to pull out from behind his back. Neither would I.

Now, let’s say that the same officer pulls over an older man, say around 55, and he’s driving a family car that’s several years old, in the middle of the day, close to a shopping mall. He too was speeding. When the officer approaches the car, the man has his hands on the steering wheel (at 10 and 2), his window down, and the car shut off. He speaks to the officer in a calm, polite manner. Yes sir. No sir. When the officer asks for license and registration, the man informs the officer that he has a carry conceal license and that the firearm is on his right hip. The officer could ask him to slowly step out and place his hands on the top of the car. Or, he could ask him where his license is (in his back pocket) and to very slowly reach back and very slowly bring his hand around holding his wallet. If he does as he’s instructed, the officer will write him a ticket, say “have a nice day”, and drive away.

Now, be honest, what were you picturing when you read each scenario?

There are too many variables to say that race was the cause of the different outcomes. It may have contributed to it, but so did the other differences; the time of day, where they were, the way they appeared (different cars, ages, and behavior). You cannot say with any certainty that it was because of his race that he was shot.

We all have these biases; we all judge people by what we see and hear. We have these biases, these judgments because of our life experiences. Everything we’ve seen, heard, read, done all contributes to it. It’s the same reason why you’ll hear some women say that “all men are dogs”.

Notice I never said anything about the color of the men. Why? It didn’t matter. Either scenario, whether black or white, could’ve ended the same way.