“Mommy, how can you tell the difference between a good cop & bad cop?”, is a question my 9 year old son recently asked me. I wish I could say that I had an answer for him, but unfortunately I didn’t. Trying to explain police brutality to a kid definitely isn’t an easy subject to tackle. He watches the news and hears about incidents where police have killed people, and most recently he took notice of the Moats Family as they were trying to get into the hospital to see their dying family member. He couldn’t understand why the officer wouldn’t let the man into the hospital instead of giving him such a hard time. When he asked me the question, I wondered if a white mother ever had their white son ask them the same question, and how did she happen to answer it.
In this day & age of supposed “post-racial” America, how do you explain to little black, brown & yellow boys that not all police officers are bad. I tried to explain to my son that there are officers out there who genuinely take on that career choice because they want to serve their community, but that there are also some out there who abuse the privileges that are given to them, and because you’re never able to tell which one you’re dealing with, that it’s always best to respect the fact that they are ‘authority’ figures.
I’m sure you’re probably thinking, well damn, that was done with a lot of sugarcoating.
You’re right, it was.
Personally, I refuse to implant in my son’s mind that all police officers are ‘pigs’ and target people of color. I would never want my son in a situation where he comes across an officer and feels that it’s OK for him to disrespect the officer and cop and attitude. Just a few days ago, we witnessed that happening at our local grocery store. A group of teenagers (both white & black) were hanging out in front of the grocery store on their bikes & skateboards, and clearly there were signs which stated ‘no loitering’ allowed. An officer, who was black, approached them and asked them to go elsewhere. Did they move immediately. Of course not. My son asked me why weren’t they leaving. The officer, for the 2nd time, asked them to move their group to the park, a few started to grab their stuff to leave but one kid didn’t bother to budge. An older lady who was putting groceries in her car, walked up to the kid and basically told him to listen to the officer & leave. He listened to the older lady, but apparently he didn’t feel the need to listen to the officer. There folks lies the problem. Where was the respect for an authority figure? Was the kid taught that?
I refuse to raise my son to be disrepectful to any ‘authority’ figure. I will not have him ‘marked’ for death. Unfortunately, there isn’t a scarlet letter out there that can be placed on the foreheads of ‘bad’ cops, even though it seems that for millions of people the scarlet letter seems to be the color of their skin. Will there ever be an end to police brutality? In this post-racial America, that people talk of, unfortunately I think it will always be an ill of our society that we will have to deal with. One bad apple will always spoil the bunch.
Have you discussed police brutality with your child or younger family member? How did you approach the subject?