A Matter of Perspective
As a proud black man & police officer, I believe that small positive changes now can have a big impact on our future as a nationBy Blake Hollins | Jun 12, 2017
Being a police officer is one the greatest joys of my life. The ability to serve, protect the vulnerable, and make an immediate impact on the lives of people I contact on a daily basis is beyond gratifying. Every day I put on that uniform I’m filled with a sense of purpose and determination to be the best I can be. I constantly remind myself of why I wanted to walk this path and remember all the hardships and difficulties I endured to get to this place in my life.
I take a lot of pride in being a police officer. At the same time, I’m also a very proud black man. I studied the lives of Frederick Douglass, Malcom X, Ida B. Wells, and others. Learning from their lives, understanding their paths, and the unthinkable hardships they had to endure fills me with a sense of unwavering confidence. Because of their example, I know I’m capable of overcoming any adversity set before me.
One of those adversities is being a black man and a police officer in today’s America. To some, these identities are at war with each other; it’s impossible to be both pro-black and pro-law enforcement.
But here I am.
A Legacy Continued
Distrust and unrest between the police and the minority community has been rekindled due to the current portrayal of law enforcement through media and other entities. Historically, given the use of police in our country against African Americans, it’s understandable from my point of view. Not too long ago, it was acceptable to deploy police canines and spray peaceful protestors with fire hoses for fighting for their God-given right for fair and equal opportunities.
I’ve talked to my grandmother and many of my elders who feel the shootings of “unarmed” black males tend to remind them of the lynch mobs of yesteryear. Many black elders refer these acts are part of the “New Jim Crow,” where individuals in places of power can continue to oppose African Americans without using the “N-bomb.” While speaking to them I can see the unrest and frustration in their eyes, which is easily understandable. Many of these elders love this country, even giving life and limb to a place that they feel, in some measure, hates them.
I’m sure most of my readers have developed their own opinions of the recent police-involved shootings throughout our country. Personally, I feel the media, politicians, and others have profited tremendously off the deaths of these young people. The need for a continuous news cycle and attention-grabbing headlines often fuels a false narrative. This is shameful. Anyone who has put on the uniform has felt the backlash of these recent shootings, whether positive or negative.
In a similar vein, many minorities feel overbearing fear and terror every time they’re pulled over or come into contact with a police officer. They worry there’s a good chance they may lose their life. Believe me, I felt the sting of trying to help a citizen with a flat tire only to be greeted with, “Hands up, don’t shoot!” I’ve also had friends who have called to tell me the sense of terror they’ve felt during a basic traffic stop.
I understand the distrust by many towards law enforcement intimately. I grew up in the inner city of Indianapolis. I know all too well the pungent odor of burning crack cocaine coming from the bedroom next to mine. I’ve had to pick drug vials from the creases of basketball shoes on the playground. You can say I did not grow up with a silver spoon.
I remember the overall systematic hate and dislike for the police every time they showed up. I remember giving passing police cruisers the middle finger for no other reason than that’s what my role models did. It took me a long time to realize the reason my mother came into my bedroom at night to make me lay on the floor was because they were shooting outside. It took me a longer time to realize that the so-called neighborhood “role models” were the ones shooting and were routinely a major issue in my community.
I then realized that it was up to people like me to make the difference. So I went off got a little bit of education and the Lord lead me into the field of law enforcement. I told myself that I would give back and make a difference in a neighborhood much like the one I grow up in and I would do my best to inspire and help people who look like me. So I paid my dues and eventually was able to patrol an area that was mainly African American.
Like most things, there’s the good and the bad. An overwhelming amount of people from the African-American community are extremely happy to see someone who looks like them working in their neighborhood. Especially on my department where officers of color who tend to work this area tend to get treated extremely harsh. We often hear the crowd calls of “Uncle Tom,” “porch monkeys”, “house n***a,” among other comments.
There have been instances where black officers had local problem parties staking out their homes and posting pictures of their children on their social media sites. It often feels like a personal grudge against black officers working in such an environment. I’ve often heard how I was a traitor while arresting someone for dealing crack cocaine (like I was supposed to look the other way).
I completely understand why other black officers would not like to work in such an environment. Why deal with so much? Why have to worry about your children being harassed at school when you can work in an area where you can do your job but people’s emotions are not so deep-rooted that deep down you don’t sometimes feel like you are betraying them.
I’ve had disputes with family member who assume I’m an expert regarding the Michael Brown case. You can see the raw emotions of the topic come to the fore. My family talked to me as if I pulled the trigger myself on that particular day. They talked to me as if I crossed some imaginary line and turned my back on the black community. They talked to me as if we didn’t grow up in the same home, sleep in the same room, and fight the same struggle.
Some officers sometimes have issues dealing with people of different cultures, which is understandable. Many times you have educated people from stable homes who choose this line of work. How can you ask someone who grew up in suburbs to successfully patrol public housing tower filled with people she doesn’t understand without some type of cultural learning curve?
From my experience these officers tend to be more passive and less likely to take command, which ultimately leads to huge officer safety issues. But can you blame them? Would you want to start the next Ferguson? To have your name, legacy, and livelihood thrown in the wind? Who would want to be an Ofc. Wilson right now? I can certainly say I don’t envy him at the moment.
There’s nothing wrong saying that we are different from one another. We’re all different. And we all know we can do a better job of understanding one another and putting forth more effort to make this world a better place. A few small steps now can lead to a dramatic difference to the next generation.