Police Violence and Indifference in Seattle

protesters standing behind fence with words black lives matter

The violence and indifference of Seattle law enforcement grieves me. Seattleites of color continue to endure a culture of terror.

Seattle police officers have killed numerous unarmed people of color over the years. Just when there appeared to be a lull, officers killed Jaahnavi Kandula. They ran over her in a crosswalk going 70 MPH in a 25 MPH zone. Egregious enough as that is, “police banter” soon surfaced. In a recording officers can be heard saying that her life didn’t matter and that the state should just “write a check.”

In an op-ed today, Analeesa Thomas bemoaned this as yet another example of a family’s grief “amplified by the police’s chilling disrespect.” Ms. Thomas’s article describes how a Lakewood police officer boasted about the “frickin’ million-dollar shot” that killed her unarmed son, Leonard Thomas, in 2013. Violence paired with indifference.

Teacher Banter in Oakland

I remember how in Oakland during the pandemic, recorded “teacher banter” over zoom featuring teachers’ racist comments about how certain students couldn’t read set off a firestorm in the media. The judgment and outrage that ensued was needful and swift, garnering national attention.

In both the police and educator examples, this unprofessional “banter” exemplifies a failure to frame professional duties as sacred. It’s probably related to public institutions floundering more broadly in the 21st century. Tasked with crucial roles in society, ones that we might call sacred, professional guilds lack holistic, integrated vision. I wrote about the failures of psychiatry and its guilds on another blog just earlier this week.

What we do matters. When we look at matters holistically, regardless of whether our holism is spirituality-based, everything becomes meaningful, important, and significant. Life acquires symbolic depth. I can only describe it as theological, though one need not be religious or spiritual to experience this higher “theological” vision.

Theologically, when officers run over a law-abiding pedestrian, this isn’t cause for coarseness. This is cause for lament. We should experience deep sorrow and remorse. Immediately. We should not say, as the union did, that our banter wasn’t that bad and that it was just taken out of context. That these words left their lips speaks to a lack of holistic vision and social responsibility.

When a teacher encounters students who can’t read, this isn’t a time for comparison with others who can. No, this is a call for reflection and embrace of one’s sacred duty as an educator to never give up when serving others.

Professional Integrity Demands Systemic Antiracism

Above all, professional integrity demands character. These failures of policing and education are systemic. We must not be content to reflect on these matters on an individual level, professionals of character must take up the standard of sustained social protest against systemic injustice. We must protest against the dual injustices of racism and poverty. These injustices often overlap due to our country’s history of systemic white supremacy.

Antiracism is not a thought experiment. It is not “critical race theory.” It is a response to the ways of the world in the United States of America. Through antiracism we replace violence and indifference with care and engagement.

The sacred duties of raising socially responsible children, of caring for our elders, and of interfaith dialogue, are neglected in our culture wars. Many privileged people in red states are merely withdrawing and teaching their kids knowledge (reading, writing, and math) without wisdom (awareness of suffering and the ongoing demands of justice). On my other blog I recently wrote about how psychiatry and medicine similarly put knowledge above wisdom.

Professional activity in the social services demands systemic antiracism and public oversight, not self-policing, though that should always be part of it. This requires community dialogue and honesty. That is hard-won.

What we have now is violence paired with indifference.

Doubling Down Despite the “Good Ones”

What grieves me is that not all police are bad and that there are antiracist teachers. And yes, they are getting so much hate. However, backing off on social justice reporting at such a time as this for the sake of the feelings of these good individuals would be unacceptable. Furthermore, in a corrupt system, there are truly not good ones. Theologically, furthermore, there is no perfection even in the best of us. None of us is God. There is only the journey.

None of us have arrived.

One response to “Police Violence and Indifference in Seattle”

  1. […] May it heal my heart that breaks as police and public relations deteriorate in Seattle (I wrote my thoughts on my education blog just […]

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