This month, Christopher E. Smith, a white college professor and attorney wrote a thought-provoking article in The Atlantic. I want to thank Chief Chet Epperson of Rockford, Il. for alerting me to it. These are the kind writings of which a police leader needs to be aware. This is the process of life-long learning. It is said that the purpose of an education is to make us aware of the “other” — That an “other” exists and we are aware of that “other” and how they think and feel.
When I read the article, it resonated with me on a couple of levels: first, how blind we often are to the most obvious conditions of life. In this instance, it’s what I call “pernicious racism;” deeply embedded and persistent in our culture so much that most of us cannot see it.
At the same time, it is a debilitating disease which infects so many of us. It is an infection in which police cannot permit themselves to continue in their illness without seeking to be healed.
On the second level of resonation, my family is bi-racial. My wife and I adopted two Asian daughters. They are now adult women. As they grew up, I could have written an article similar to Prof. Smith’s, “What I learned about racism by watching my two minority daughters grow up in a liberal Midwest city.”
Smith wrote, “When I heard that my 21-year-old son, a student at Harvard, had been stopped by New York City police on more than one occasion during the brief summer he spent as a Wall Street intern, I was angry. On one occasion, while wearing his best business suit, he was forced to lie face-down on a filthy sidewalk because—well, let’s be honest about it, because of the color of his skin. As an attorney and a college professor who teaches criminal justice classes, I knew that his constitutional rights had been violated. As a parent, I feared for his safety at the hands of the police—a fear that I feel every single day, whether he is in New York or elsewhere.
“Moreover, as the white father of an African-American son, I am keenly aware that I never face the suspicion and indignities that my son continuously confronts. In fact, all of the men among my African-American in-laws—and I literally mean every single one of them—can tell multiple stories of unjustified investigatory police stops of the sort that not a single one of my white male relatives has ever experienced.”
[CLICK HERE to read the entire article]
I will close today’s blog by simply stating, “forewarned is forearmed.”
This saying began as a Latin proverb for military application, “Praemonitus, praemunitus.”
As centuries went by, it took on a greater meaning. In the Middle Ages it was translated into English and came to have a much broader approach: Those who know that something are better prepared to face it than those who do not.
To me, Praemonitus, praemunitus means that an educated leader is better prepared to face the future and its challenges than those who are not.