I’ve discovered yet another way in which I’ve been a pawn of ideology, and now I’m compelled to blow down yet another straw house established by my family of origin. Such family was (and remains) racist. They completely support and uphold the white supremacist narrative.
Throughout my childhood I was confronted with the contrast between my family’s collective beliefs about black people and my own personal experience with friends and associates which never supported those beliefs. Alongside the racism was fervent patriotism, reverence for the American armed services, and loyalty and deep pride for the institutionalized police–those fine heroes called to serve and protect.
During the Vietnam years, my father joined the Marine Corps reserves. Later, he joined the Jefferson Parish Police Department, the neighboring force of the N.O.P.D. Amid overt lessons about the virtues of faith and sexual purity were impassioned and explicit monologues about the gallant calling of law enforcement. I was taught that the poor, black collective was riddled with leeches, irreverent and aggressive, criminals with shady motives and malicious intent to harm me for being white. If a family member encountered empirical evidence to disprove these toxic beliefs, they’d invalidate such evidence, call it an outlier–an exception to the rule.
Simultaneously, I learned that the police force was good, noble, and trustworthy, necessary for the maintenance of law and order. They were our guardians–the good guys.
I did not learn of the origins of institutionalized policing. The truth of its inception was withheld from me. This is the case for many white Americans, I fear.
Thus, when black men are killed by cops, when towns rise up and businesses are burned, when public discourse includes the phrase “All Cops are Bastards/All Cops are Bad,” uninformed people, like myself, completely ignorant of the sordid truths embedded into the history of our Great Nation, react to what appears to be an aggressive display of displaced rage and either/or thinking. Well meaning as we may be, we think we’re doing something positive–diplomatic, even–when we say things like “Surely, not all cops are bastards/bad. We mustn’t over-generalize. This is over-reacting,” and we’ve no idea how damaging a simple statement of the like may be.
We cannot know if we are not taught.
I am grateful to the Cornfollowers who led me to this place of awareness. The white narrative refuses to allow its people access to the truth–the gravity of our American history, and the ripples of unaddressed collective trauma at our hands. Such trauma is felt with the same intensity today as it was felt two hundred years ago, when our nation prospered on the back of an oppressed people. I would be remiss to ignore the reality that the affluence of the American way continues to accumulate through the exploitation of these same people.
While advances have been made since the abolition of slavery, the American economic and social fabric is still infused with toxic ideology that proceeds to oppress swaths of its population–its own citizens. Because white communities fail to teach the truth of our shared history to their children, generations follow, who, in their ignorance, perpetuate the abuse and trigger fresh wounds by invalidating the real, grievous experience of minorities and people of color.
It is not my place to say “Not all cops,” as I have been a beneficiary of the privilege controlled by the will of the enforcement authority. Such authority was not founded on ideology with the power to suppress my rights, my freedom, my livelihood; thus, I will never comprehend the terror and the grief the institution inspires in my black and brown friends and family.
All Cops Are Bastards.
This is because the institution itself was designed to preclude the freedom and suppress the rights of the underprivileged people of our nation for the benefit of the privileged, so they could live on the right side–the white side–of the railroad tracks.
I did not understand ACAB because I did not know the truth. Now I know. Now, I understand. Now, I am responsible.