My Dad is a retired police officer. He retired a few years ago after over 40 years of police work. He attended the FBI national academy and was promoted to Captain of his department. Since he was a little boy, he'd wanted to be a cop. He told me that there were two kinds of police officers; the kind that protected the little guy on the bus, and the kind that bullied the little guy. He said that the good kind always protected the little guy, and that there were more good cops than bad. My Dad is my hero.
I went away to college, and started dealing with anxiety (more like ANXIETY) for the first time ever. Every time my stress reached a certain point, I would have a nightmare that my Dad was shot. It was so vivid. Every time I had the dream, it was the same. My Mom would call me and say that he was in the hospital. I would drive home with one of my friends and they would assure me that it was okay. I would arrive at the hospital and find the hallway full of officers - guys that I used to babysit for. They'd all be crying. I remember vividly walking through this gauntlet of weeping police officers. I would wake up crying every time.
So, imagine if you will, your serial nightmare is your father being shot and killed. Multiple times for years and years. I would call him almost every time, because he worked midnights, and he would say, "Hey, Dummy, I picked up the phone. Of course I'm fine. I'm the baddest mother in this town, and I'm bulletproof. Go to sleep. I love you." And I would go back to sleep, hoping that he would use great care with himself.
After college, I worked in Ferguson, MO and other towns nearby. It's not a bad little town- middle class, hard working people. I remember getting pulled over for speeding with a black co-worker in the car. I was driving - I got out my insurance and driver's license, and the officer started questioning my co-worker. Aggressively. He asked him to get out of the car. The whole time, my insurance and license were still in the my hand, unnoticed. I was shocked and started asking why, and got told to shut my mouth. I have a healthy ego and a big mouth, so I started saying that my father was a police officer and I had never experienced such crap, and I was going to call everybody and my Dad and how dare they.... (Being able and WILLING to question police officers, btw? That's white privilege. I know that now.) They finally told me to go away. I was furious and my colleague was quiet for like five minutes. He then said it happened all the time. ALL. THE. TIME. So this was one of the bad cops. Got it. I called my Dad after and he said, "Yeah, they're out there. But there are more of us than of them. Don't be so mouthy next time."
My Dad and I don't really talk about this stuff, because we're so cautious about hurting each other. My friend's kids stayed with me the weekend after Ferguson blew up because they needed a break from the violence. Her kids are my kids too, and I was terrified for them. My Dad has seen officer after officer shot down by crazy people. He wants us to use more patience after a shooting to see what the investigation says, and I want to fly out of my seat and scream. It's so raw and personal for both of us that we use extra caution when talking with each other, because we don't want to damage our relationship. We use great care with each other.
Watching the news and social media these days is completely exhausting. Can I still support my Dad the Officer and believe that #blacklivesmatter? Because I do - I really do. Every time there is another shooting of a black American, I'm astounded that more people aren't outraged. This is our country! There are more good cops than bad, what the hell is going on?! Where is the outrage from the police organizations? These are their men, and the good guys have got to become more vocal. Every time a police officer is killed, my heart stops a little and I think about that hospital hallway full of officers - I know it exists. It exists in New York and Texas and Missouri and New Orleans. Some kid like me is going home without a parent every time. Violence is not the answer, and is driving us further away from any resolution.
I suppose I'm writing this because I'm really tired of feeling like I have to choose sides. It's implied, right? That if you believe that Black Lives Matter, you don't support the police. And if you support the police, you can't believe that Black Lives Matter. (And don't come at me with that #alllivesmatter bullshit. It's bullshit. All lives didn't matter when the lives were refugees, so just shut it)
Here are things that I know are True. This is my Truth Manifesto. You ready?
1. Black Americans are victimized by some of the officers that we trust to protect us, and we need to dismantle the systemic racism that exists within our criminal justice system.
2. There are more good police officers than bad, and I want to hear from them.
3. Everyone needs to please stop shooting each other. Just stop it. You're not helping.
4. I can believe all of these things at once and my head will not explode.
5. My Dad is still my hero. Over 40 years as a police officer and he never shot anyone. Not once.
6. These things are all True.
7. We all have a responsibility as Americans to speak out when we see injustice.
8. We must all use great care with each other.