In case you've been living under a rock, you've no doubt heard by now that the New York City police officer who had been shot in the head on Saturday by an ex-con in Queens has died. Officer Brian Moore, 25, was a native of Massapequa, Long Island, and his death was senseless in every way, yet it underscores the building tensions between police officers everywhere and people of color, and this particular case feeds into the views of those who side with police officers nationwide. Yes, it's bad!
I, for one, see both sides of the issue, and though race thrown into the mix of law enforcement does no doubt seem to cloud the judgement of some, it doesn't for everyone, and it's cases like this that feed into the actions of those who act upon their prejudices. The stresses that I am sure are placed on those who are paid to protect and serve us every day are far greater than any of us will ever know, and those who do wrong should always be brought to justice.
I want to share something that I always tell my students, who are all people of color. It speaks to what happened in Queens on Saturday, and in Baltimore a couple of weeks ago, and in Ferguson last summer...
First of all, there is some truth to most prejudices. That is a plain fact. The stereotypes that follow any minority group come from known experiences with a number of its members over time. But the world is not black and white...it is gray! Ignorance and prejudice comes are based on what we've heard, what we've read, and what we see on the television. Most are not based upon interactions with the targeted group like they should be. The greatest thing to break down the barriers of ignorance is more experience, experience with as many persons of the stereotyped group as it takes for us to learn that we are all individuals.
There are good cops and bad ones...Latinos who are illegal and those who aren't, good decent hard-working African Americans and ones who walk around with guns in their pockets looking for trouble. There are effeminate gays and straight-acting ones, brilliant Poles and ones a little short on smarts, greedy doctors and ones who are in it to help....you get it! There are a gazillion and one stereotypes, but the world is NOT black and white.
I tell my students that each and every time they interact with an American person, they are representing all Latinos, and that it is always their job to show those they interact with that they do not fit the stereotypes that the general public believes about them. Every interaction they have with someone of another flavor is always an opportunity to break down stereotypes, and break down prejudice...and you know what? I sincerely hope that my students take that to heart and represent themselves for the individuals that they are.
Prejudice seems to be a part of the natural human psyche. We tend to naturally distrust and prejudge those who are not of the same ilk as we, whether it's a player on another team or a neighbor from a distant block. But maybe if each of us does our part to break down those prejudices, maybe someday we won't have whites saying, Uh huh, that Demetrius Blackwell was a typical thug, just looking to kill white cops, or African Americans believing that the cop that shot down Michael Brown did so just because he was black.
We should all be angry at the Demetrius Blackwells and the cops in Baltimore who are involved in the death of Freddie Gray, another 25 year old who died at too young an age. Their the ones who perpetrate the stereotypes, but there are plenty of us out there who just want to live in peace.
So rest in peace Brian Moore, Freddie Gray, and any other person who's lost their life in this madness that divides us. I am truly sad for your loss and hope that maybe one day soon your deaths won't be in vain.