I was at work earlier this week and took my lunch break in the lounge area of the YMCA where I work and teach. Across from where I was sitting was a basketball court filled with young black men, at least one of whom calls me “Mom.” They were courteous and well-behaved and, frankly, I didn’t think twice about them. Then my Facebook page took me to the YouTube video from McKinney, Texas. The juxtaposition of watching these young men on the basketball court, playing a game and horsing around, while watching the video of a police officer throwing young black men and a young black woman on the ground, was chilling. I absolutely could not believe I was watching this in 2015. Watching the obvious racial profiling by the officer in the McKinney video literally made me sick to my stomach.
There are a lot of opinions out there and they vary depending on one’s point of view. I can only give my own opinion. For me, no matter how much this is debated, this incident comes down to a group of teenagers who felt they were being verbally, and possibly physically, abused by some of the Caucasians at the pool. Rightly or wrongly, the teenagers reacted and stood up for themselves. As is usually the case with groups of teenagers, they responded by yelling loudly and pushing back. The situation then escalated and the police were called. Once the police arrived, at least one officer chose to over-react and went into what I can only call a rage.
A lot of discussion has been about the young, bikini clad, African American girl who was thrown to the ground and held down by the officer putting his knee in her back. As a mother of three girls, that is awful and I would’ve gone full mama bear on his ass if it was my daughter. However, there were also a number of teenage boys who were also pushed to the ground and told to stay face down. That offends me just as much as the treatment of the young girl.
I have written before about race related conflicts that have been in the news. I have tried to explain, from a law enforcement point of view, how scared the officers can be when confrontations escalate. They never know when a situation could turn violent and their life threatened. I still understand that perspective. However, this was a bunch of kids in swim suits. There were no hoodies or sagging jeans where a weapon could be hidden.
Were the teenagers yelling and milling around? Yes, they were. That is how teenagers react when think they’re being treated unfairly. I’ve raised three and, trust me; they yell and scream when they feel they’ve been wronged. They needed to be reasoned with, not chased off the property with someone waving a gun at them.
You can Google this incident and find any number of articles and opinions about what happened. What I am choosing to focus on are the positive things we can take away from this:
- A young Caucasian saw what was happening and knew the racial profiling was wrong. He shot a video of what was happening and released it on YouTube. In every interview of him that I saw or read, he was outraged by the racial profiling. He has stated that he felt “invisible” in the chaos that was taking place. That gives me hope that this generation, who is growing up in a time when the integration of the races is the norm, will not tolerate racial injustice when they see it.
- Americans are not sitting by idly when they see people being treated unjustly. For thousands of years there was no camera or film to capture incidents of injustice. For a good century we had the capability to film events as they happened, but it was a rare occasion for someone to have a camera with them to record these incidents. Now, almost everyone has a phone that has video capabilities and they are using them to record things as they happen and they are releasing these videos on a public forum. These videos are an effective tool in preventing incidents like this from being brushed under the carpet.
- With so many of these incidents being recorded by bystanders, the police departments are going to be forced to adjust how they deal with the public and how they train their officers. If law enforcement won’t make this adjustment because it’s the right thing to do, they’ll be forced to do so because the municipalities that support them will get tired of having to pay out restitution to the victims of their actions. Honestly, with so many videos being released in the last few years, I cannot believe that anyone would be stupid enough to not realize that any lapse in procedure will most likely be recorded and released.
I have high hopes for change. I have high hopes for this generation. I pray that by the time my younger grandchildren become teenagers they will be as repelled and mystified by any acts of bigotry as my generation is by the behavior of authorities during the time of the Civil Rights movement of the 60’s.
We are the world, we are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
“We are the World,” Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, 1985