I was 13 years old when I watched video of Rodney King being beaten by officers of the LAPD. I am 43 years old now and I’m watching the same things happen, over and over and over again. I didn’t understand it then and I don’t understand it now.
One of the proudest descriptors I can claim for myself is that of student. I believe that there is no ill, no problem, that cannot be overcome or at least ameliorated by education. So I know that the roots of what I have watched for the last 20 years grow deep, deep, deep into our history. I know that these last 20 years are nothing new.
I keep hearing people talking about, “a few bad apples.“ This is said to justify the belief that the majority of law-enforcement officers are good people. But you know what? “Bad apple“ is an idiom, and the rest of that idiom says that a bad apple spoils the whole bunch. Another idiom is that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. yes, the officers who are suspected of corruption, violence, and murder must be immediately suspended! They must be prosecuted and, if found guilty, they must lose their jobs, their pensions, and possibly their freedom. And none of that is enough.
These bad apples are the fruit of the poisonous tree, and they have spoiled the whole bunch. Law enforcement, as it is constituted in the United States today, must come down. The entire racist, classist, discriminatory structure must be ended. We need to build anew.
There are many, necessary services that need to be provided, but do not need to be provided upon the barrel of a gun. In the short term that is where we need to start. Beyond that, though, we need to understand and address the root causes of crime in our communities. Yes, America is rife with systemic racism, but that’s not all. We are also a nation beset by systemic poverty, and systemic classism, and a systemic lack of opportunity, fairness, and justice. Until we can address those inherent illnesses in our society nothing can or will get better.