I came across a headline yesterday (December 2, 2014) that caught my eye. The headline, from Boston.com, read
Internet Turns on Once Beloved ‘Ferguson Hug’ Cop
The link to the article is here. The ‘Ferguson Hug’ Cop is the one from the photo of the white Police Sergeant hugging a crying black youth.
The section that caused me a great deal of pause was the following;
“Writer Yesha Callahan questioned Sgt. Barnum’s sincerity in a piece today on The Root. “You have to wonder if this is just an act for Barnum and a way to gain notoriety. Because liking a profile photo that states ‘I am Darren Wilson’ seems to contradict his views on police officers and their relationship building with black people. Especially when you choose also to side with a police officer who killed a black man and those who support that officer,” Callahan wrote.”
Are you kidding me? Suddenly some innocuous act on a social media board translates into an act of Racism. Unbelievable.
The vitriolic level of the response to any support of now former Officer Darren Wilson is shocking.
The officer in the now famous picture, Sgt. Barnum, hugging the teary-eyed Devonte Hart, is a more accurate indicator of how the overwhelming majority of Police Officer interact with people of color.
But this doesn’t sit well with those that choose to perpetuate the falsehoods of the Ferguson incident.
This wasn’t a shooting of an innocent, harmless person in the act of surrendering, arms raised in compliance.
This was a terrible situation in which an officer was forced to fight for his life. There was no color line here. It was all one of survival.
Yet, because Sgt. Barnum showed his support for Officer Wilson, after he went through the Grand Jury process that returned a No True Bill on criminal charges, despite his actions in that photo, the sincerity of his comments, he is a racist.
The line in the quote from writer Yesha Callahan that is the most troubling is the last one “Especially when you choose also to side with a police officer who killed a black man and those who support that officer,” The “black man” conveniently leaves out certain aspects and actions that day of that ‘black man’.
This may be an unpopular concept among those violently protesting this incident, but if Mr. Brown hadn’t assaulted and robbed the store owner, had submitted to the arrest, he’d be alive today. He bears much of the responsibility here. We need to remember that.
No don’t misunderstand me. Racism is alive and well in this country. On both sides of the color divide.
Many people of color find it hard to believe white people are not racist. Many white people do, in fact, hold prejudices based on race.
These are learned behaviors. Taught by our upbringing, but not immune to change. The violent protests, flag burning, and looting only serve to reinforce those stereotypes, not ameliorate them.
And believing that every Police Officer is a racist is judging someone for what they are, not who they are. No less an embracing of a false stereotype than any other held prejudice.
If change is the goal, it will only come from education and understanding. As long as the nightly news shows people running from looted buildings carrying televisions and Nike sneakers, the stereotype will only persist and flourish.
Instead of standing in a line blocking interstate highways, stand in a line and vote. Stand up for what you believe in with thoughtfulness and reason, not violence.
And be careful what you “like” on Facebook.