Let me begin by expressing my heartbreak over the loss Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, the 5 Dallas police officers and the many more who have lost their lives to similar circumstances. My prayers are with each and every family member and friend who has lost their loved ones not only this week, but in weeks, months and years past.
In less than 7 weeks, I will begin my senior year at North Greenville University. This will be my fourth and final year studying criminal justice. I’ve heard pretty much every opinion concerning my major from “you shouldn’t do that because you’re a female” to “if you try to pull me over, I’m not going to stop.” While I hear those comments more often than I’d like, most people are very encouraging when I tell them my major. Some even express more excitement than I do. But here recently, it’s a topic I don’t want to discuss. Not because I’m not proud of what I’m studying or because I’m not proud of my accomplishments over the last 3 years, but because “it’s a bad time to be a cop.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that. I haven’t decided yet what I want to do with my college degree, but the likelihood of me entering the realm of law enforcement is great. So let me express my thoughts on that…
I will be the first to admit that the Criminal Justice System in America is cracked, even shattered at times. We live in a country where the white name “Clinton” acquits you of more federal charges than I can count. We live in a country where a black college athlete receives 15 to 25 years for raping an unconscious female, but a white college athlete receives 3 to 6 months for committing the same crime. And we live in a country where a white police officer shoots and kills a black man for reaching for his wallet.
However, we also live in a country where a black teenager shoots and kills a white police officer less than 30 minutes from my house. We live in a country where black men attend protests for the sole purpose of shooting and killing white police officers. We live in a country where some advocates of the Black Lives Matter movement hate police officers so much that they come up with chants like “Pigs in a blanket, fry ’em like bacon,” referring to police officers in body bags.
So there it is. There is the injustice on both sides of the spectrum. And that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. Should I continue on why blurting out my major isn’t the first thing I want to do? I get tired of hearing, “It’s a bad time to be a cop.” I get tired of hearing, “Are you sure you want to do this?” Yes, I want to do this. No, this doesn’t make me want to run for the door. Yes, I get worried when my Narcotics Detective brother goes on duty and my State Constable dad leaves the house in his uniform. But no, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be out there along side them one day. This is when they are needed the most. This is when we step up and fight. And when I say fight, I mean we fight the injustice of racism and hatred that this country has battled since it began in 1776. And when I say we, I mean each and every citizen of the United States of America. Red and yellow, black and white.
You see, we have to understand that we are equal. We. Are. Equal. Yes, black lives matter. The lives of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile mattered. But the lives of those Dallas police officers mattered, too. The life of Officer Allen Jacobs mattered. We cannot continue to believe that only one of those statements is true.
Law enforcement, it is time to defy the racist stereotype that you have been given since the first police force was created almost 200 years ago. It is time to treat each and every citizen under your jurisdiction subjectively and with respect, on and off duty. Each and every citizen, it is time to give that same respect to authority. It is time to understand that law enforcement was created for the benefit of you and your community, even if that is hard to believe right now.
As for me, I am proud to say I am studying criminal justice. I look forward to my career, whether I am a police officer or a victim’s advocate, or whether I work for the Department of Social Services. At this point, I have no idea where I am headed. But I do know this: Every citizen of this country deserves equality, and every citizen deserves to be treated with respect. My prayer is that I never lose sight of those truths, no matter my career.