Crazy Faith Ministrie
The arrest and harassment of Seattle Seahawk Michael Bennett by Las Vegas police officers was bad in and of itself. For people of color, it represented the all-too-familiar scenario of what happens far too often: There is a confrontation that involves what looks to be excessive force by police officers and despite what looks like obvious abuse of another human beings, the officers are excused.
Their excuse: I was in fear for my life.
As soon as they say that, it seems they are off the hook, and they know it. It is likely that at times, they are in fear for their lives. That comes with the territory.
But far too often, from the point of view of people in Black and Brown communities who witness these altercations, the “man down” has too often been someone who has done something minor at best, but who finds him or herself at the mercy of police officers who have a bone to pick and know they can pick it without fear of being held accountable.
According to Michael Bennett, he was accosted by police officers for no reason. He had done nothing, yet was wrestled to the ground, held down by a knee pressed against his back by an officer while another officer held a gun to his head. These officers refused to listen to Bennett try to explain who he was and completely ignored his assertion that he had done nothing.
We have seen that before.
Bennett went public with his account of what happened, and it roiled the blood of the Las Vegas police union. The officers were and are, apparently angry that Bennett chose to kneel during the singing of the Star Spangled Banner before a football game and decided to throw their weight around. Because Bennett took his situation public, and because Roger Goodell did not excoriate Bennett, the police union wrote a letter to Goodell, basically dehumanizing and criminalizing Bennett in an attempt to justify what they did.
We’ve seen that before, too.
The police are saying that what Bennett said happened is not true, and that they demand that Goodell and the NFL conduct an investigation into Bennett’s “false allegations against our officers.” Investigate, like officers in St. Louis did after they shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, leaving him lying dead on the hot pavement for four hours while they got their story straight, the story that would cast Brown in the light of a teen thug, deserving of being shot and killed. Investigate, like police officers have demanded so many times, trying to save their own hides, at the expense of people who have sometimes but not always warranted a bout with police, but have not warranted the excessive force, brutality, violence and too often, death, that those encounters have ended with.
The current federal government, pining for the “good old days” when police could be as violent as they wanted, seems supportive of the antics of police officers that have characterized their interactions with people of color for decades. Making America “great” again has been and continues to be a euphemism for making America blatantly and arrogantly racist again, where Black and Brown people are treated as non-human or sub-human beings. There is a nostalgia for raw power over people of color by many.
Their America is the land of White people and the home of those who will do anything to preserve the status quo. In their world, police officers who beat, harass and kill Black and Brown people are heroes. They push the narrative that Black and Brown people are hoodlums and thugs who deserve to be taken down. They know that their victims have little voice, especially when the highest office in the land seemingly condones police behavior and calls them heroes, romanticizing them almost as soldiers, saving America from “the enemy.”
A word to police officers: Black, Brown and poor people are not enemies, and the officers who brutalize them just because they can are not heroes. They, in fact, are the enemies, the enemies of freedom, justice and human dignity. They pout and whine when they get called out, as Michael Bennett has done, and they go to extreme lengths to protect their mythical status as warriors for justice.
They are far from that, and those who have no capacity to treat all people as human beings need to find other jobs. If an officer is not protecting people, but is instead brutalizing people he or she doesn’t like for any reason – including his color, religion or, as in the case of Bennett, he or she is not fit for the job. The oath officers take is to “protect and serve.” Officers of the ilk that harassed Bennett are doing neither, and for that offense, they should go.
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith is a preacher, writer and organizer She is available for speaking. She can be contacted through firstname.lastname@example.org.