Dear Fellow Americans,
I have a request of you: Someone help me understand. Clarify, if you will, some things that I must be failing to comprehend. You see, I live simply. I don’t like ambiguity, I don’t tolerate intolerable behavior. I weigh my words carefully, I think before I speak. I do all of this, with a child’s guileless expectation that everyone else should do the same.
And yet… it is not so. I sit here writing, as a woman who loves words so much, and think: Damn you, Words. Damn you for the harm you do, the pain you cause, and the anger you invoke.
But wait, I think.
Words are to blame for the state of our world? No, no, no. It’s not words alone- it’s the people using the words- that’s what’s wrong. People who use words to bring divisiveness, hostility, murder even. You know the words I’m talking about?
Thugs. Racists. Race Baiters. And… Police Brutality.
They all get tossed about daily on the news, in conversation, on social media. All but the last are essentially fighting words. That last one: not so much. That one, well, that one nobody bats an eye. It’s spoken matter of factually, its ‘a thing‘. The final straw for me was while watching a video on Facebook by someone who presumably (and misguidedly) was trying to help dispel the “police target Blacks” theory by beginning his montage with the ‘caught on video’ instances of ‘police brutality’ on Whites and other races/ethnic groups. Believe it or not, he really was trying to make good points, but it only proved to me how out of hand this loose term has gotten.
So, we’ve finally come to my question: How is it we exist in a society where everyone goes bat shit crazy over labels- perceived and real- and no one notices that the words “Police Brutality” have become an all encompassing,inflammatory and stereotyping term? Humor me, if you will: Go ask ten people to play a word association game. Ask them to say the first word that comes to mind after you say ‘Police’. I did, initially on social media, then person to person. Now, I travel in a police friendly/ supportive crowd ( as a matter of course) and many responses were words like ‘Hero’ and ‘Brave’. Some said ‘car’ and ‘officer’. Some, in a most apologetic and regretful tone, said ‘Brutality’. Of those who said ‘Brutality’, five said so in private messages.
So, then I wondered: what if I ask people I don’t personally know? Just random people, in hopes that their responses would be unfiltered and spontaneous. Oh, to those of you who know me personally: Yes, speaking to strangers was as traumatic as you can imagine. Anyhow, it went something like this:
” Hi, can I ask you a quick question? You see, I’m writing an article for my blog regarding word associations, and I’d just like to know the first word that pops in your head when I say a particular word. Ready? Police _______ “. Of the 8 people I asked, 2 said ‘Car’, 1 said ‘Brave’ and 4 said ‘Brutality’ and 1 began with ‘Bru–‘ and switched to ‘Officer’. You be the judge on that one.
Now, you may think there are some ‘givens’ here- people with good/positive/personal relations with police are likely to give responses that reflect that, and people with bad experiences will reflect that. Right? Eh, not quite. All (but one) who said ‘brutality’ said that they hated to say it, or even think it, and cited the current events playing across mainstream media. (The ‘but one’ simply added ‘for sure’ at the end. Guess we know where he stands.
You think I’m over-reacting? Well, then so are tens of thousands of other people when they protest people-defining words: Stop saying “Bossy” to girls: it sends the wrong message. Don’t say “thug” about criminals of color- it sends the wrong message. Change your football teams’ name from “Redskins” it’s derogatory. Fat. Gay. Retarded- all are insensitive, derogatory, and send the wrong kind of message. And so many more desensitizing words. They all, at some point, were pervasive and accepted, and they had entered our bloodstream so that we didn’t even see or hear the anymore. Until someone shouted: Stop. And someone else joined in, and said ” No more”. And then a movement began, and we became aware and mindful of our words and how they can hurt.
My point? Even the people with positive feelings toward police are associating ‘Police’ with ‘Brutality’. It is rapidly becoming a compound word, and that my friends, is unacceptable. We usually use the word ‘Police’ to encompass the sum of all law enforcement, a common generalization. State troopers, deputies, sheriffs, patrolmen, officers, detectives, and so on- they’re simply: “the police”. So it is a reasonable leap to say that when you use the term ‘Police Brutality’, you are giving over 800,000 men and women one big fat negative connotation. You are saying, in effect, the all police are brutal. Does anyone actually think that? I certainly hope not. But if we keep recklessly putting those words together, as if they belong together, then it gives those words the power to influence opinions about a community of decent men and women across this country and around the world who have dedicated, and so many have given, their lives to the service and protection of others. They deserve to be distanced from an ugly word, one that does not describe who they are and what they do.
Furthermore, any police officer who is proven to knowingly and willfully inflicts emotional or bodily harm on an INNOCENT person, violates their oath and has no right to be called Police. They deserve to lose the privilege and honor of wearing that title. That word: Police, is worn with pride, dignity and respect by thousands of good men and women, so how dare we sully their service with such an ugly word?
What should we call it, then, when an officer is proven to have violated his oath in such a grievous way? I don’t really know…hell, call him/her a law breaker, oath breaker, whatever- but don’t call them Police. Too many have lived and died by that title bravely and with great self sacrifice to have it associated with a word like ‘brutality’.
Am I at all confident this will actually give anyone pause for thought, let alone correct the media frenzy? Sigh. No. I’m a realist. But I’m a realist who won’t shut up when there’s something I want to say. And today, I want to say, “ Stop Saying ‘Police’ Brutality.” We need to be more than the sheep being herded by the mass media diatribe against law enforcement. I hope someone out there agrees with me, and is willing to shout Stop Saying ‘Police’ Brutality. Let’s hashtag it: #StopSayingPoliceBrutality because just like #AllLivesMatter , #PoliceLivesMatter too.