I want to say that it’s not fair to condemn the police without acknowledging my own complicity as a teacher who entered the field with the best of intentions but who had to step away when I wasn’t performing up to the impossible expectations placed on teachers in title one schools. Police officers and teachers of children furthest from educational justice are prone to shop talk that dehumanizes the people they serve because the system is broken and there is the repeated moral injury of working in white supremacist society. We come into contact with people who need the height of compassion and who deserve the very best. When we fall short, we are ridiculed and shamed. Yes it is lamentable, in the deepest sense of the word. Biblically it calls for lament. It is also understandable that we will fall short. Accountability is essential in both teaching and policing—and falling short in a way that costs life or dehumanizes victims of educational injustice is a sin against God. But when we deplore the shortcomings of public servants, we must also implicate ourselves.
We are all a part of the system of white supremacy. When white liberals hate on the police without looking in the mirror, this is dangerous. We are scapegoating the police, who may die in the line of duty at any time. We are all of us the police in this society. We call 911 when we can’t or don’t want to handle the brokenness of America. I don’t stand in solidarity with the police, they are individuals and I don’t know any police, but I do understand the repeated stress of being in a demanding job and being shamed for not being perfect and being called racist for it. Police must do better, but so should all of us. The scapegoating of police is understandable, and also in many cases a cop out.
On the day that the Seattle Times posted about the extreme insensitivity of a few officers, I entered a Starbucks where many officers sat seated. They weren’t making eye contact with a soul. It was sad. Members of society and yet permanently “other.” As they got up to leave a man with shaky legs tried to stand up and fell. Three officers carefully escorted him to his car and helped his wife buckle him in. I wish we would have stories in the newspaper about the good deeds officers do on a daily basis for our community.
Yes, improvement and reform should be mandatory. And yet we are all complicit in the injustices of this world. These injustices have been there since the beginning of time. No one is perfect. All people, of all races, can stand to improve. This is not to deny systemic racism. I am merely hoping to shed light on how scorning one group of professionals above others is spiritually dangerous when we are all equals as humans capable of great sin, and also tremendous acts of love.
To those honorable officers who serve every day: thank you. I see you. Please do better. All of us as humans must do better.