All life matters

An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind. 

­­­— Mahatma Gandhi

My fellow Americans, let’s get a grip, before it’s too late. Life matters. 

More specifically, all life matters. Recently, two innocent policemen were cowardly killed by a demented and crazed individual, who happened to be black. According to the social media trail the killer left behind, he was out to avenge the death of Eric Garner — the black man who died in a confrontation with police about selling single cigarettes. 

For the record, I am just as outraged by this senseless act of violence against police as I was by the recent spate of killings of unarmed black male youth and adults. In both instances, the twin evils of profiling and stereotyping were at play.

The person who believes that all police are racist murderers is just as deluded and misguided as those who believe that all black men killed by the police were thugs, thieves or lawbreakers waiting for an opportunity to commit a crime. Stereotyping is a shortcut to thinking. Once we buy into the stereotype, individuals lose any uniqueness as — what my mother always referred to — a “child of God.” They become a thing to be despised and mistrusted — not a person to be respected or treated with dignity. A very close friend of mine shared a recollection from 30 years ago about his uncle, who would hand out buttons with “S.E.S.” emblazoned on them. He asked his uncle what it meant and was told it was an acronym for “Stop Espousing Stereotypes.”

Stereotypes make it easy to dehumanize rather than empathize, to react instead of respond, and to justify our thoughtless reflexes instead of understanding the consequences of our behavior. As a result stereotyping, the person standing in front of us becomes a lifeless hologram projection. Instead of differentiating among and between people, we simply affix a label that will save us time and thought. Police become “pigs” and black males become one-person crime waves, waiting to happen. Yet as I’ve said so many times, these victims are real, breathing, and complex human beings. 

No stereotype is capable of communicating the uniqueness of the individual it seeks to reduce to a type.

As black people, we must strenuously avoid stereotyping all police. Similarly, whites must get beyond the media-reinforced stereotype of the menacing black male. Admittedly, there are some bad cops and some criminally pre-disposed black males.

Nonetheless, I would submit that there are a lot more good cops and good black males than there are bad ones. Let’s not make heroes out of individuals who should be ostracized, not embraced. Anybody who is smugly justifying the killing of innocent people is culpable in promoting the notion that “an eye for an eye” is a civilized response.

Police work is difficult, demanding and downright dangerous, regardless of the community being policed. 

In the spirit of full disclosure, I will share with you that my cousin was a Vietnam veteran (three tours of duty) and a policeman. He was blinded, in the course of his police duty, from a shotgun blast fired by another black man. 

We must respect our policemen and they, in turn, must respect us as citizens and human beings. The recent killings by police and of police are nothing any American should be proud of in any way, shape or form. 

S.E.S. now!

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