Like many Americans, I have been following the protests in the wake of the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and the reactions of police and others. I was particularly impressed by the thoughtful statement issued by Kareem Abdul Jabbar in the wake of the mounting tensions between police and the communities they serve.
Jabbar began by noting that his father and his grandfather were both police officers. He then addressed the recent assassination of the two officers in New York.
We need to understand that their deaths are in no way related to the massive protests against systemic abuses of the justice system as symbolized by the recent deaths—also national tragedies—of Eric Garner, Akai Gurley, and Michael Brown. Ismaaiyl Brinsley, the suicidal killer, wasn’t an impassioned activist expressing political frustration, he was a troubled man who had shot his girlfriend earlier that same day. He even Instagrammed warnings of his violent intentions. None of this is the behavior of a sane man or rational activist. The protests are no more to blame for his actions than The Catcher in the Rye was for the murder of John Lennon or the movie Taxi Driver for the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan. Crazy has its own twisted logic and it is in no way related to the rational cause-and-effect world the rest of us attempt to create.
Those who are trying to connect the murders of the officers with the thousands of articulate and peaceful protestors across America are being deliberately misleading in a cynical and selfish effort to turn public sentiment against the protestors. This is the same strategy used when trying to lump in the violence and looting with the legitimate protestors, who have disavowed that behavior. They hope to misdirect public attention and emotion in order to stop the protests and the progressive changes that have already resulted. Shaming and blaming is a lot easier than addressing legitimate claims.
Shaming and blaming, unfortunately, are the currency of the day.
I don’t understand why it is so difficult to see the difference between criticism of inappropriate police behavior, on the one hand, and antagonism to police and policing on the other. I can complain about service at a restaurant without being labeled “anti-restaurant.” I can criticize a schoolteacher without being anti-education. If I punish misbehavior by my children, that is actually evidence that I love my children enough to raise them properly.
Most police officers are good guys. Some, however, aren’t.
Police who get angry and defensive when someone points that out are probably part of the problem.