by Conrad Moore, ROJ Trainer
Ignorance is bliss. White people can decide if and when they want to enter the discussion about systemic racism, or not. We need to go much farther than just conversations about race. It is time to get to the hard work of dismantling institutional racism. The YWCA’s Race Against Racism is merely a first step. The most recent national manifestations are around police misconduct — highlighting the ways they behave toward people of color when they think no one is watching. I am really tired of even trying to keep up with what seems to be a daily installment in the news about some unarmed African American, or Latin American man or woman being beaten or killed by police.
The unfortunate reality is that where there are police patrolling people of color communities there is rampant police misconduct. If you want the real stories all you have to do is ask the right people the right questions. As disturbing as it sounds there is evidence that police protect one another often to the point of helping to hide each other’s bad behavior. TV and movies show us actors projecting this fake hatred for the dreaded Internal Affairs Division. I.A.D. is responsible to investigate police. On one long running popular show, uniformed officers and detectives call Internal Affairs the “Rat Squad.” The implication is that IAD is seriously investigating police misconduct and they will bring consequences to bear on the wrongdoers. However, police in the real world know they rarely have to fear the Internal Affairs Division. Convictions are rare and charges even more so. Check out the stats in your state. I say with confidence you will find the same is true. How can that be?
The Bad Apple Myth
There is the proverbial Bad Apple Myth. They claim there are always a few bad apples and they want to find and get rid of them just as badly as we do. However, if you pay attention to these cases you will see that the so called ninety-nine percent good apples protect the bad apples. It happens in every municipality. Remember the Abner Louima case: The bad apples took Mr. Louima to the the safety of the 70th police district precinct, sodomized him with a broken broom handle and beat him almost to death. They took him there because they knew the so called good apples would protect them. Their brothers in blue did not disappoint. They did protect them.
We don’t know of anything that extreme happening in Lancaster City (Pennsylvania) but, there have been over-aggressive, rude, violent interactions between police and people of color in this community. There are public officials who claim they are unaware of the police misconduct in our community. Can it be that while every predominantly black and Latino community in the nation has problems with over-aggressive, rude, violent, local policing, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is immune? Preposterous. It seems nearly every public official in almost every community wants to pretend this misconduct doesn’t happen in their community until they wind up on CNN giving a press conference about police misconduct.
Recent comments by public officials imply that they do not see a problem here in Lancaster. Even worse, if they acknowledge the disconnect between people of color and local police they blame the community not the police. What is equally unfortunate is that there are many stories in Lancaster of police behaving badly when nobody is watching. Yes change needs to happen even right here in Lancaster. However, change starts with acknowledgement of the problem.
Healing, hope and deciding where the story starts
There is not enough room in this post to list the thousands of cases from all around the nation. Stories of police misconduct are not new. The stories do not start with the unfortunate murder of Michael Brown in 2014, the 2009 beating of Cassandra Fuller, the heinous assault on Abner Louima in 1997, or the 1946 beating and blinding of Army Sgt. Isaac Woodard for that matter. These stories are not as rare as the general public is led to believe. This systemic racist misconduct will not end until we end it. We can begin a new chapter here in Lancaster. People of color and white people working together will write it. Let’s get to work.
Roots of Justice trainers and friends share reflections on historical and current events