The following is from an opinion article in the Nov. 29, 2014 issue of The New York Times. It was written by Michael Eric Dyson, a professor of sociology at Georgetown and the author of a forthcoming book on President Obama and race.
But the most poignant for me was his retelling of an incident that happened to him many years ago and how it stays with him even to this day. It should be instructional for all police officers.
Police must understand the power and fear they bring into a contact with a person of color. A little empathy exhibited by them can go a long, long way. When mistakes are made (as they always will be) police need to apologize. A simple and sincere, “Sorry to have had to stop you, sir, but I did think I saw something that I needed to take action on. Again, I am very sorry!”
“It is nearly impossible to convey the fear that strikes at the heart of black Americans every time a cop car pulls up. When I was 17, my brother and I and a childhood friend were pulled over by four Detroit cops in an unmarked police vehicle. This was in the mid-70s, in the shadow of the infamous Detroit Police Department task force called Stress (Stop the Robberies, Enjoy Safe Streets), which was initiated after the 1967 riots. The unit lived up to its name and routinely targeted black people.
“As we assumed the position against the car, I announced to one of the plainclothes officers that I was reaching into my back pocket to fish the car’s registration from my wallet. He brought the butt of his gun sharply across my back and knocked me to the ground, promising, with a racial epithet, that he’d put a bullet through my head if I moved again. When I rose to my feet, cowering, showing complete deference, the officer permitted me to show the car’s registration. When the cops ran the tags, they concluded what we already knew: The car wasn’t stolen and we weren’t thieves. They sent us on without a hint of an apology…”
The entire opinion is worth reading and you can read it HERE.