Police Behaving Badly 5.30.18

More than 900,000 people serve as sworn local and state law enforcement officials in the United States (the highest number ever). These police officers are charged with upholding and enforcing the law, maintaining order, and providing general services. To carry out these duties, police officers possess certain powers, granted by the state. If the situation calls for it, police officers can frisk, detain, and arrest civilians, as well as seize property. In addition, depending upon the situation, police officers are empowered to use force to defend themselves or civilians (the amount of force extends along a spectrum from “simply” police presence through deadly force). Given the powers that police officers have, it is incumbent upon them to maintain a level of professionalism in the course of their duties and to wield their powers responsibly and ethically. Unfortunately, there are countless examples of cops engaging in a range of irresponsible, unethical, immoral, and/or illegal activities from bribery and unjustified arrests to illegal search and seizure and the use of excessive force. Here are five examples of police behaving badly:

(against a black and white backdrop of a generic police station, two white, male police officers struggle to subdue a victim. The artistic rendering presents the officers and their victim surrounded by blood, thus implying the use of excessive force on the part of the officers)

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Police Behaving Badly 5.30.18

Reclaiming Slurs

I remember the first time I was ever called a N*gg*r. My father was stationed on Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. I was between 13 and 15 years of age (it was before I had a car, but when I was officially a teenager), so everywhere I wanted to go, I had to bike it. Which was no problem for me. I loved being on my bicycle.  One particular summer day, I decided to do something that, looking back, was pretty uncharacteristic of me. I was just starting to collect comic books (I wouldn’t start seriously doing so until I was 16, when I had a job and a vehicle) and I’d been to one of the local comic book stores a handful of times with my mother. The shop was a good 8-10 miles from the military base, so I thought to ride on up there and use my allowance to buy some comics.  At that age, walking into a comic book store was, for me, like a kid who loves candy walking into a candy shop:  paradise.

For the most part, I took side streets to get there, staying off the main roads bc traffic and well, I didn’t wear a helmet (i know, I know). At that age, I didn’t give much thought to the type of people I might encounter on my ride. Today, I know better.  As I rode through one residential area, I passed a few kids playing outside in their front yard.  There would have been no reason to take note of that, except for something I heard as I rode by. One of the kids, a young girl, said to her father “look dad, a n*gg*r”, as if I were some peculiar creature that she’d only read about in books or saw at the local zoo (by that point in the 20th century, Blacks and other Non-Black PoC were no longer dehumanizingly and humiliatingly put on display in human zoos, which really were a thing for hundreds of years).

Back then, I knew very little about racism and how pervasive it was.  Nor did I know the history of that slur or how much power it had.  Even still, I knew that the word was an insult directed at me and those like me.  Given the casual way she uttered the word, I suspect she grew up around it, with family and friends using it regularly. Strangely enough, for all that I’ve lived in the Southern United States for most of my life, that instance was one of the few times I’ve heard the slur spoken by a living human (I qualify that bc I’ve heard the word on television and movies before).

I knew enough, however that I hated the word and never used it or any word derivative of it. In fact, for a very long time, I was opposed to anyone using it. Not just myself or any white person (that’s a given), but any Black or Non Black PoC.. To me, the continued use of a word so strongly tied to the subjugation and dehumanization of African-Americans could never not be a reminder of the inferior status many accord us bc of our skin color. I was also frequently befuddled when I heard a Black person use the word (or, more accurately ‘nigga’). I couldn’t understand why any Black person would use a term that was so obviously a degrading term. Perhaps if I’d had many Black friends, I could have asked them.  That was one of the unfortunate aspects of growing up for me–I didn’t grow up steeped in African-American culture. So I didn’t have many Black friends. I suspect things might be different if my parents hadn’t chosen to leave Harlem when I was six months old (though I do understand why they made that choice).

In any case, my strong aversion to the word held fast for many years. That is, until my interest in social justice began to develop; when I first learned about reclaiming slurs. I heard how the LGBTQIA+ community had worked to reclaim ‘queer’ (which I think is one of the more successful efforts to remake a slur) and that ‘b*tch’ was the chosen self-descriptor for many women. Learning about reclaiming slurs made me soften my feelings toward the N-word.  I still don’t like it, and hearing its use (in any form) brings a slight chill down my spine.  But I’m no longer thoroughly opposed to hearing other Black folks use it (it is not, nor will it ever be ok for wyte folks to use it, and even though other PoC have been oppressed in our wyte supremacist society, it’s not cool for them to use either, bc it was never a term used to disempower them).

For all that I can understand the power in reclaiming slurs, I realize there are some who don’t “get” it, so maybe this will help:

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Reclaiming Slurs

Fellow men: Don’t be like Jesse

Fellow men,
Lets have another sit down.

Take a moment to fully read the Tweet below and the response to it:

Image is a reproduction of a Tweet and its Retweet. The Retweet reads "There's no other reason to why a girl uses birth control other than to have sex with countless guys without having to worry about pregnancy." The Tweet that responds to it lists seven benefits to birth control beyond pregnancy prevention: acne, irregular periods, cramps, PMS relief, cancer prevention, PCOS relief, endometriosis relief"
So smug, yet so ignorant, Jesse could stand to learn that there times we men ought to remain silent.

Jesse’s comment is a masterful example of a perceived sense of male supremacy wedded to an ocean of ignorance.

His purpose is to shame women for having sex.

He is trying to fortify the archaic, misogynistic societal norms that have long been in place that have oppressively regulated the lives and behavior of women.

He conveys much about himself in his comment:

•he reveals his disdain for women who use birth control
•he thinks his egregiously wrong opinion is some statement of fact
•he thinks he has the right to dictate to women what they should do with their bodies
•he cannot think of women as equal to him
•”he thinks anyone who has the reproductive equipment associated with birth control as a woman. He equates reproduction/secondary sex characteristics with gender.” (the preceding quoted material–reproduced with permission–offers additional insight provided by my good friend Tamlin)

The slut shaming he engages in is for the likely purpose of “putting women in their place”. Its an attempt to regulate their behavior by way of public scorn. It is a given that he does not think limitations on men having sex should or do exist (though it is possible he thinks queer men should not have same sex interactions)

He thinks he has the first clue what he is talking about. He does not, as is made clear by the response he received. In addition to significantly reducing the chances of unwanted pregnancy, there are many benefits to birth control.


Even if there were no other benefits, “I do not wish to become pregnant unless and until I am ready” is reason enough all on its own to use birth control.


Once you accept that women are human beings free to act as they choose–including making decisions about who they have sex with, how many partners they have, or how often they have sex–you come to understand why Jesse’s comment is fractally wrong.

As if to underscore his contempt for women, Jesse refers to _women_ as _girls_, an infantalizing act that reinforces his misplaced sense of male superiority by treating women as children in need of a mans assistance.

Guys, don’t be like Jesse. He is a misogynistic ass.

Lesson over.

Your homework is a group assignment: interrogate the idea of “redistributing sex” and explain why it is a morally abhorrent concept.

Class dismissed.

Fellow men: Don’t be like Jesse