First let me start out by saying that my purpose for this blog is not to start an argument. The truth is that I haven’t spent hours pouring over the details to be able to promise that I have ever fact straight. I have however read enough. I could get all of my facts down to a science and start throwing them at you, but let’s be honest, it wouldn’t actually sway you in any direction other than the one you are currently at. Instead you would just throw more facts back at me. We would get angrier and angrier at each other, all the while not making any sort of progress. I am asking that agree to skip that part so can begin to have an open conversation about these issues.
This is not me trying to defend either side by saying one side was justified is their actions. A young man was killed. I think we can all agree that is a tragedy. Just as I am not trying to justify either side, I am also not trying to deem the tragedy of Freddie Gray’s death.
I am trying to bring some perspective, and hopefully act as a mediator. Because I do understand both sides of the story. I do want to stand up for the rights of the little guy, the rights of those who have been silenced under the foot of powerful. Please believe me when I saw that I know that police brutality and racial profiling are real issues that also need to be addressed. But I am also a criminal justice major who understands the the type dangerous situations that police officers have to face. I also know all too well how easily the media can make our perspective of right and wrong all of a sudden seem very fuzzy.
In addition to being a criminal justice major, I also worked in a prison. Admittedly it wasn’t a very dangerous prison, but that doesn’t mean that there weren’t people in there who wouldn’t stop to hurt me if they had the chance. You never know what is going to happen and who is really dangerous. It is unfortunate but true that many of the best criminals are masterminds at deception. The horrifying truth is that most of the time you only have a split second to decide if this person is truly innocent or just good at acting like it. In the hindsight it is easy to see one action as an overreaction. When we have time to process all of the facts, it becomes obvious which party was in the wrong. Time is a luxury that many of our police officers do not have. They have to react in the time given with the facts they are given. And sometimes that will mean they make mistakes. I wish with all of my heart that those mistakes didn’t cost Freddie his life, but the reality is that a mistake in the opposite direction could just as easily cost a young police officer their life. It is unfortunate reality, but it is the reality that we live in.
I have read about a lot of angry people who want the police department to step up and punish those in their force who did wrong. And I can agree with that, to a certain extent. There are a lot of things that should have been done better in that situation, things that might have potentially saved his life. Someone needs to take responsibility for those mistakes. However I also understand the horrible position it puts the police department in. As soon as you start throwing officers under the bus for defending themselves, you have officers who hesitate to defend themselves when they should, and soon you have officers who end up dead because of that hesitation.
We could argue until we are blue in the face about who deserves what punishment, but that isn’t going to bring Freddie back to life.
Being human is hard, it is so very hard. Being a human in a minority group is even harder, just as it is harder to be a human who goes to work every day with the risk that they could die. So instead of judgment and pointed fingers, I am asking for a a little bit of perspective and a whole lot of grace. Despite how many facts we think we know about the situation, we can never completely understand that circumstances that caused each party to react the way that they did.
But I mean what do I really know? Not a whole lot if I am being honest. I realize that admitting this does not do much for my argument. Which is just my point, because I am not trying to win an argument. I am trying to create an open discussion in which we can understand each other so we can decide what needs to be done to help this not happen again in the future. You can hate me for it if you want. If hate makes you feel better. My guess is that it won’t. But if you feel that you need to, I am not going to stop you. Before you chose how to react, think about these words from my pal Ghandi, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”