Sunday, April 26, 2015

Why “Don’t Resist” Advice is Not the Solution

Sitting on an airplane, the man in front of me was watching 12 Years a Slave.  I glanced up.  Two men were just hung.  A third was passing and was kicked by a white man to move along.  The hung – as being hung - looked at him, at the man passing, with what in their eyes?  Not pleading.  I don’t know.  He looked back knowing it was their last look, and they were hung.  Bodies twitching violently in the air, high above the crunchy brown leaves and the stained hats of the stained white men.

This is why “don’t resist” is not an acceptable answer to the pervasive police brutality against black men in this country.  For over 200 years, we have told black men they have no dignity.  We have emasculated them with commandments that they obey our orders and our force or die.  To tell them the solution to not dying is to just obey is not ok.

“Obey, and fight it later in court,” and this, somehow, is supposed to be “justice.”  Without even getting into the skewedness of that system, even if they “win” by not having charges filed or by getting a case dismissed on a 4th amendment violation, their dignity has still been taken.  There is no justice for that; there’s no getting that back.  The closest they can get is a civil judgment or settlement against an officer or a department by their family after they’re dead – or maybe, in extremely rare cases (Walter Scott), a Colors of the Wind quote murder charge against the officer.

The solution is not “don’t resist.”  The solution is showing respect and acknowledging dignity.  It is officers treating human beings as fellow men – not “others,” not “criminals,” not “thugs,” not “pests,” or “suspects” or “perpetrators.”

A lady who had testified during the Congressional Briefing on The Justice Package said on the news, “it’s the system, not the officers.”  Well you know what? The officers are the system.  And until they can treat other humans – black humans, black male humans – with respect, the system will not change.

“Do not resist” is not the answer.  It only addresses the symptom of “death in police custody.”  It does not address the problem, the raping of black men’s dignity, the continued degradation and emasculation of the American black male. 

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