By Rhonda E. Frost
The last few weeks have been emotionally hellish. I do not know if that makes sense as a description, but it is what I feel. Watching George Floyd be killed by a morally corrupt, lawless, soulless, super predator police officer, ripped the oxygen out of our lungs like the coronavirus of 2020.
Seeing that officer casually perched with his knee on Floyd’s neck, his hands in his pockets and his sunglasses resting on the top of his forehead, like he was taking a donut break, shook the nation. For 9 minutes the officer sat there looking at us, looking at him, while Floyd begged for air and called for his mama. For 9 minutes the cop pressed his knee on his throat until Floyd died. This heinous act by someone who is sworn to “protect and serve”, arrested the naivete of those who didn’t want to believe in police brutality, the ones who always have a “but, he was…” explanation for unarmed black bodies being killed by rogue police. It seems the whole world is suddenly “woke”. We can never unsee Floyd’s death. This was the straw that broke our black back.
But wait, there’s more…
Then the protestors came. For the past 8 or 9 days, a historic number of people have taken to our streets to exercise their First Amendment right to protest. They are a mixed crowd of peaceful activists, anarchists, millennials and old heads, people of all races and walks of life, with a few straight-up criminals mixed in, just for the hell of it. Many have come to express their emotions and to let the world know, that we as a race and nation are tired of this narrative. Some came to spit at police, call them names, burn shit to the ground, set cars and buildings on fire, and steal Gucci bags and Nike shoes using the protest as a prop to “come up” on a few things.
Police officers in Atlanta are on the streets working 12-hour days, to try and manage the massive crowds and keep people from burning down the city. While all this is going on, they are still responding to your 911 calls for help on murders, carjacking’s, burglaries, robberies, gunshots, domestic violence, child endangerment, and the regular stuff officers deal with. It’s all in a day’s work. And by the way, the Atlanta Police Department is approximately 60 percent minority.
I have been at Black Lives Matter protests actively chanting with my fist raised high and tears streaming down my face. I am not sure if it was after Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, or Michael Brown’s death, but I was there. I grew up in the inner city. My struggle is black. I get it. I am an activist at heart, and I abhor injustice.
I am also a law enforcement professional. I spent 15 years in uniform working in what California calls, “The Toughest Beat in the State”. I worked inside the concrete jungle (5 of them to be exact). I spent my days enforcing the rules and laws as an officer, supervisor, and administrator. I understand what “excessive force” means. I have read my fair share of “Use of Force” policies. And I understand the term “abuse of power”. I know how it feels to put on a uniform, carry a gun, and wear a badge.
Before anything else, I am a black woman. I am the mother of a black son. My brother is black, my dad was black. My ex-spouse is black. My brother-in-law is black. My nephews, uncles…you get where I am going. I have black friends who are doctors, teachers, lawyers, hairstylists, entrepreneurs, real estate investors, executives in the world of finance, DJ’s, and in every other profession. All of them have a story about an encounter with the police. We all share the same pain when injustice happens.
I also have black friends who are police officers and law enforcement professionals who I respect and care about deeply. The past few weeks for them have been demoralizing, painful, and mind-numbing. The conflict and heartbreak in this current space are difficult to explain.
Black men and women in law enforcement are no different than you. They felt the same pain and disgust as you did, watching Floyd’s murder. They have the same fears of driving while black. They have the same conversations with their children about what to do and not do when stopped by the police. They/we cry the same tears. The only difference is, they put on a bulletproof vest, a uniform and a badge and they go out into the streets with their lives on the line daily to answer our 911 calls and risk it all, to serve their community and make a difference. They do this despite the risk of being hated and shot. This is what they do 24/7, 365 days a year. It’s a call to service.
Just imagine the conflict for them as protestors hurled their venomous words, vented their distrust and anger, spit on them, calling white officers names like “pigs” and “racists” and the black ones, “uncle Tom”, “sellouts” and “coons”, tearing at their humanity and somehow making them all responsible for the ones who discredit the badge and violate their oath. Is that how we should do it?
My question is, if Black Lives Matter, do the black men and women in the uniform matter too or Nah? And if we are comfortable saying “all cops are bad, crooked or unjust”, can we also be comfortable when people say “all black men are gang members, criminals, lazy, absent fathers, irresponsible and cheaters” or “all white people are racist, colonizers, greedy, trailer trash, ignorant, Trump-supporting KKK members?” Because if it is safe to generalize, then let’s go all the way with it.
My statement here is not to mitigate the movement, rather it is to illuminate the obvious. There are law-abiding, honorable, morally sound law enforcement officers of all races, who go to work every single day, with the intent to serve and keep their city safe. These people never make the news. They just do their work and go home. The majority go into law enforcement because they want to make a difference in their community, and they want a stable job. They have bills to pay, just like you do. They want to make it home safe, just like you do. They hate racist police and corruption just like you and I do.
Can you imagine if there were no minorities on the police force in your city? Can you?
I propose we stop with the hate and generalizations. I say we keep the movement going, and that we continue to hold violators accountable, and peacefully protest until injustice is no longer an agenda item. But I also ask that we focus on what to do next. That we register to vote and that we vote for people who care about humanity, justice reform, housing, student loan debt reduction, health care, and economic empowerment for all.
Yes, we should protest with outrage the unjust murders of our men and women. That is a given. But we should also honor and thank those who get it right, every single day. The ones who show up at your door because you called 911, treat you with respect, and help resolve your crisis.
There are more good people than bad people in this world. We must weed out the bad ones, but we also must shine the light on the ones who hold it down, those who show up and make the world a better and safer place.
And finally, if you hate what you see in policing, become one. Go to your city website and apply to be an officer, or go back to school, and become a lawyer, a judge, or a law enforcement professional so you can be the change you want to see on the streets and in the justice system.
I have found it is easier to be a Monday morning quarterback than to be the quarterback in the heat of the moment making decisions. It is easier to be the critic and to point out the errors and flaws of others who do the work when you are safe in your home behind a keyboard and screen rather than in the thick of the experience. Don’t be the person on the sideline with ideas and complaints, get in the game so you can effect change.
And remember, if black lives truly are to matter, then they have to matter for all black lives, all the time, not just when a rogue cop kills an unarmed black man or woman.
***Featured Image-Credit Getty Images***