“Red and yellow make green.” While this is not actually true in coloring, it is completely accurate for many police officers. I myself learned this phrase when I received a traffic ticket here in Arizona. I was dressed up as an Indian, on the way to 5th grade Colonial Day. I then headed to our elementary school, which was located two doors down from my home. Admittedly, I was going a tiny bit over the speed limit, and I got pulled over directly in front of my house. While I tried to distract him with my adorable Native American outfit, he asked me for my license. In my hurry to get to school to get to my post at the soap-making stand, I forgot my purse. So, at the Officer’s request, I went into my home to retrieve it. He then wrote me a ticket for having no license. To write up the information for the ticket, the officer used my license. When I questioned the irony of the situation, he told me to take the ticket to court with my driver’s license and I would get it dismissed.
You see, the cops get paid for simply writing the tickets. And, in this situation, it wouldn’t have mattered if I was dressed as a Pilgrim or an Indian.
Our country is in an uproar over police brutality, and this is good. However, this is something any defense attorney or any minority living in this country has known about for decades. Police abuse their power. It is as simple as that. They are given a badge and told that they are invincible. There is a system in place that assures them that they are correct.
Does race play an issue? Absolutely. But make no mistake about it: we cannot be distracted by race on this topic. It is easy to say that the situation can be resolved by giving the police some classes in racial tolerance. It is incredibly easy to blame all of this on previous generations of racial prejudice and ignorance.
But race is not really the problem. The problem is abuse of power. The problem is injustice.
Think about it: are you mad about the accusations against Bill Cosby because he was a black guy abusing mostly white women? No. You are mad he abused his power as an influential entertainer. People were mad about OJ Simpson and Casey Anthony because they were murderers who were found not guilty and set free. We were not mad because they were black or white. We were mad because of injustice. We were mad that our “justice” system is anything but just.
For the same reason that I have trouble driving while there are cars on the road with reindeer ears, it is easy to distract us today. The media can throw anything out there and make us believe it. I walk into a store and completely forget why I’m there until I see a sign telling me what’s on sale and suddenly that’s what I buy. I end up in my driveway wondering how I forgot to buy eggs, and instead own a new set of tupperware.
An attorney friend of mine is representing the family of a man here in Arizona who was an unarmed man shot and killed by the police last week. The police claimed he was part of a drug deal, but when he was shot, he was holding two happy meals for his kids. Does it matter his race? It shouldn’t. It should matter that he was a dad who had just returned home from McDonalds, and was shot from behind at his front door.
Let’s take this anger and keep going, America. But don’t get distracted by the red and blue lights. Focus on the road ahead. Police have a tough job and we are glad they are here to protect us. But like anything that is put here to provide us safety, there can be leaks in the roof. We need insurance so that we don’t get rained on again.
Don’t patch up those holes with masking tape. Close them up for good.