In the past few days I’ve watched video of Walter Scott in South Carolina being shot dead while running away from a police officer and of NBA player Thabo Sefolosha being unnecessarily taken down by 6 NYC officers, one of whom happened to break his leg with a baton blow. Seems like just a few months ago I was watching video of the Eric Garner murder in New York. Of course, wasn’t too long ago that similar racially charged incidents happened in Ferguson, Missouri with Michael Brown and in Florida with Trayvon Martin (which was not a police incident). This stuff is unbelievable.
I want to think that most police officers are good people and that these cases represent a tiny fraction of incidents involving police. However, even my experiences as a white man aren’t so positive, although they definitely aren’t deadly. My first ever encounter with a police officer was when I was 16 and was pulled over and given a ticket for driving with my brights on at night (in a mostly rural area). I was coming home from playing basketball with friends, and a car was driving towards me with its brights on. I forgot I had mine on, so I switched them off while thinking I was turning them on. Then I realized I turned them off, so I turned them on again so that I could see without being blinded. Well, that was enough to get me pulled over. When I tried to explain to the officer what I was doing, he rudely wouldn’t allow me to speak, wrote me a ticket, and drove away. Gee, thanks.
Last year, my brother had just moved to Miami with a new job. My brother is a very sociable person with good values, and has never been in trouble. One afternoon he stopped to ask a woman on the street for directions and it turns out the woman was an undercover cop. He was arrested for ‘soliciting a prostitute”, put in a windowless van and driven to spend the night in jail, paid heavy fines, and lost his job since he couldn’t report to work the next day and had been arrested. The charges were dropped, but not after losing his job for it, spending the night in a jail cell with real criminals, listening to the police officers make fun of him, paying the towing company to get his car back, and paying attorney fees to get the charges dropped. (The attorney said the Miami police do this all the time).
Thinking about these things made me think of a graffiti image by Banksy (one of my favorite artists) that he did in Bethlehem, which sarcastically invokes the abuse of power by those with power (i.e. police and military):
What is the remedy? On a macro-scale, I think the global implementation of some of the most notable spiritual principles of the Baha’i Faith will gradually lead to less and less of these incidents. These include the oneness of humanity and the elimination of all forms of prejudice, including racial, religious, and gender.