Lately, I find myself wondering about current factors that contribute to the ongoing divisiveness in our nation. It appears that we are experiencing a great deal of social unrest that stems from racial intolerance. Every day that passes, there is that terrible reminder that many citizens are not safe and the tenets of the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. Declaration of Independence are under siege as we continue to battle racial injustice and the right to free speech.
We have many citizens who are wary of those who do not look like them and many institutional leaders who represent schools, law enforcement, sports, and the judicial, legislative and executive branches of government, who turn a blind eye to the consequences of their actions that negatively affect certain citizens by shielding their conscience, thus, contributing to a Divided States of America with deep divisions and polarization. My hope is for America to be what was inscribed in the Pledge of Allegiance, where less focus is on citizens’ ethnicity, legal status, sexual orientation and social status. What happened to creating that America and being inclusive of all its citizens?
Remaining silent, fanning the flames and making excuses in support of those who took a life unnecessarily without any legal consequences for their actions or steps taken to prevent it from happening all over again is disheartening and leads to further division. It has become commonplace to read about a senseless murder or aggravated assault on an innocent law enforcement officer or law-abiding citizen.
When discussing my concerns with some law enforcement officers and leaders, I am told that I am acting like an “angry black man;” thus, they fail to understand the validity of my concerns as well as those of many citizens. Some do not understand the average minority citizen’s life experiences and their interactions and mistrust of law enforcement officers. Many times, minority citizens have shared that they feel intimidated to file complaints with their local police departments for fear of reprisal. Their concerns are valid and very serious as retaliation may be carried out based on past police encounters at their residence, on the road or elsewhere in public. I am concerned for the safety of law enforcement officers, their families, the general public, and especially concerned for minority citizens who are afraid to speak out against oppressive treatments by law enforcement officers and other members of society.
Many individuals may not be able to relate to the experiences that many minorities have gone through; hence, they might not think it is really oppressive when police officers treat others unfairly or are racially intolerant. Based on my experiences, some working in law enforcement and the judiciary level portray themselves as being fair to everyone including minorities; however, in reality, their views and actions contradict the tenets of the Constitution that they swore to uphold under oath in a public ceremony. As a result, the oath only appears to be ceremonial. When I personally speak about the experiences that I and many others have gone through such as being racially profiled on many occasions, it should not be interpreted as anecdotal or a simple complaint against law enforcement and the judiciary, but instead, it should be interpreted and understood with the seriousness that it deserves or else we fail ourselves and the future generation.
To stop the senseless killings of police officers as well as our citizens, especially minority citizens, we need to educate the general public; reform the evaluation, hiring and training practices of police officers; and reevaluate and improve current policies, laws and regulations that are doing more damage between communities and police officers than helping to bridge the divide. As a scholar and police officer, I look to find ways to bridge the gap between police officers and the citizens we serve.
I believe there is a role for all us to play in working to become one nation, one that we can all be proud to be a part of, and one that we can leave stronger for the future generation.
Dr. Michael Campbell