Listen. And then speak.

IMG_0720I’m white. You’re white, too, and you tell me, “They’re always playing the race card.” You don’t believe that race is as important as “they” say it is. You believe that discrimination might happen somewhere, some time, but not that often. Please – listen to these voices. Hear what they say.

Reverend Emanuel Cleaver III is the senior pastor of St. James United Methodist Church in Kansas City. He is also the son of U.S. Representative Emanuel Cleaver II. Last Sunday, reported the Kansas City Star:

“Before his sermon, Cleaver looked toward the crowd and spoke to the young black men in the church. If you’re stopped by police, your best chance of survival in spite of what happened last week is still to listen to the officers, he said. Cleaver, the son of U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, said he had been stopped by police for doing absolutely nothing. He remembered being harassed in states across America.”

Do you think this is bleeding heart liberal propaganda? Senator Tim Scott is a Republican, the only black Republican U.S. Senator. Here’s what Republican U.S. Senator Tim Scott experiences:

“I have felt the anger, the frustration, the sadness and the humiliation that comes with feeling like you’re being targeted for nothing more than just being yourself,” Scott said to members of the upper chamber.

Even as an elected official, Scott recalled being stopped by law enforcement seven times in one year.

“Was I speeding sometimes? Sure,” said Scott. “But the vast majority of the time, I was pulled over for nothing more than driving a new car in the wrong neighborhood or some other reason just as trivial.”

“I do not know many African-American men who do not have a very similar story to tell — no matter their profession, no matter their income, no matter their disposition in life,” he later added. [Emphasis added.]

Brian Williams is a trauma surgeon in Dallas. He spoke to Associated Press about his sorrow and pain at knowing that his best efforts could not save the officers who were shot last week. He also told the Associated Press about his experience as a black man in the United States:

“A self-described military brat who moved around a lot as a child, Williams turned to medicine after spending six years in the Air Force as an aeronautical engineer. He got his medical degree from the University of South Florida in 2001, did his residency at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and a fellowship at Emory University’s Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta before joining Parkland — the same hospital where President John F. Kennedy was brought after he was shot — six years ago. He’s married with a 5-year-old daughter.

“He’s been stopped by police himself over the years and said he is mindful each time that he must act and speak in a way that doesn’t seem threatening. He lives each time in fear that he could be killed. He sees the news about other black men killed by police.

“In one traffic stop, he ended up ‘spread eagle’ on the hood of the cruiser. In another, when he was stopped for speeding, he had to wait until a second officer arrived. Just a few years ago, he was stopped by an officer and questioned as he stood outside his apartment complex waiting for someone to pick him up and drive him to the airport.

“He doesn’t have such encounters every day but when he does, he’s on his guard and, ‘I’m always just praying for the encounter to end.'”

Eric Holder is the Attorney General of the United States. He is a black man. The St. Louis Post Dispatch reported two years ago about Holder’s experiences of being stopped by the police for no apparent reason. One time, he said, he was just going to a movie: “At the time that he stopped me, I was a federal prosecutor. I wasn’t a kid. I worked at the United States Department of Justice.”

Black police officers experience the same targeting by their fellow officers when they are out of uniform. Two years ago, Reuters interviewed 25 black officers in New York, both retired and active duty:

“Reuters interviewed 25 African American male officers on the NYPD, 15 of whom are retired and 10 of whom are still serving. All but one said that, when off duty and out of uniform, they had been victims of racial profiling, which refers to using race or ethnicity as grounds for suspecting someone of having committed a crime.

“The officers said this included being pulled over for no reason, having their heads slammed against their cars, getting guns brandished in their faces, being thrown into prison vans and experiencing stop and frisks while shopping. The majority of the officers said they had been pulled over multiple times while driving. Five had had guns pulled on them. …

“The black officers interviewed said they had been racially profiled by white officers exclusively, and about one third said they made some form of complaint to a supervisor.

“All but one said their supervisors either dismissed the complaints or retaliated against them by denying them overtime, choice assignments, or promotions. The remaining officers who made no complaints said they refrained from doing so either because they feared retribution or because they saw racial profiling as part of the system.”

Donald Grady II is a retired police chief, with 36 years on the force. He told The Atlantic:

“Minorities are not making it up that police are not responsive to their communities, that police are overly aggressive when they’re dealing with minorities. That’s not an illusion on the part of minority communities. That’s real. As a police chief, I have been stopped numerous times by police officers claiming that there was some violation with my car until they realized that I’m just a law-abiding citizen. I don’t identify myself as a cop when I’m in those circumstances, I just let them do what they are going to do. And like so many other African Americans I just say “yes, sir,” “no, sir” and let it go at that. But after a while you get tired of being stopped for doing nothing. After a while, even as a police chief, you get really tired of being put upon. There’s a thing that we call freedom of movement which is really revered in this country—that we should have the right to move freely without impingement from the police simply because.”

But there are good police, you tell me. Most police are good police. That’s true. But the good police usually stay silent in the face of racism and bigotry. Veteran police officer Reddit Hudson, now retired, explained to Vox:

“On any given day, in any police department in the nation, 15 percent of officers will do the right thing no matter what is happening. Fifteen percent of officers will abuse their authority at every opportunity. The remaining 70 percent could go either way depending on whom they are working with.

“That’s a theory from my friend K.L. Williams, who has trained thousands of officers around the country in use of force. Based on what I experienced as a black man serving in the St. Louis Police Department for five years, I agree with him. …

“The profession — the endeavor — is noble. But this myth about the general goodness of cops obscures the truth of what needs to be done to fix the system. It makes it look like all we need to do is hire good people, rather than fix the entire system. Institutional racism runs throughout our criminal justice system. Its presence in police culture, though often flatly denied by the many police apologists that appear in the media now, has been central to the breakdown in police-community relationships for decades in spite of good people doing police work.”

Staying silent is not an option. “Good police” need to cross that blue line of silence. They need talk to their fellow officers and they need to speak out about abuses and racism in their departments.

Staying silent is not an option for me or for you either. When we hear racist comments or just plain ignorance, we have to speak out.

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