If there has been anything good about this whole Skip Gates fiasco and Obama’s subsequent response, it is that we can finally have direct dialogue between African Americans and the police. By offering to have a beer with both Henry Louis Gates and the officer who arrested him, James Crowley, the President is bringing the problems between the Black community and the police to the national forefront and is allowing both sides to speak their mind.
One of Obama’s strengths is his ability to negotiate, compromise and to listen to both sides of the story. If he can oversee a conversation between one police officer and a Black man, who believed he was the victim of police racism, more discussions of the same nature will ensue.
For too long, tensions between the Black community and the police have ran high, due to issues such as police brutality and racial profiling. Rather than talking to the police directly about these issues, responses tend to be marches, media campaigns and the occasional riot.
The police and the Black community share many common interests. Both police and leaders in the Black community would like to decrease Black on Black crime and make Black neighborhoods safer. People in the Black community pay taxes, which pay cops’ salaries. The goal of the police is supposed to be “Serve and Protect,” which should apply to the Black community as well. Far too often, people in the Black community feel victimized by the police, rather than served and protected by it.
One common issue that police and leaders in the Black community could work together on is stopping the flow of illegal guns into Black neighborhoods. These guns help contribute to Black on Black crime and threaten the lives of police officers as well. Black leaders and representatives from the police should combine forces to lobby for laws that would stop these illegal guns from entering urban areas.
Police officers risk their lives everyday. We have seen several recent incidents where police have been killed in the line of duty. Hopefully, dialogue between the police and members of the Black community can help ensure that cops do not take their frustrations out on the Black community after they suffer losses. While Black people have a right to be angry about police brutality and racial profiling, insults and accusations towards police officers only help fuel the tension.
Just as police officers criticized Obama for chastising Crowley before he knew the facts, often times police departments defend officers accused of police brutality before they know the facts. By repeatedly defending officers accused of police brutality, it makes it seem as if they are condoning them.
One thing that must stop in order to have productive dialogue, is the “stop snitching” code that exists in both the Black community and in many police departments. If the Black community truly wants safer neighborhoods and a reduction in crime, there must be some kind of cooperation with the police, especially with murder investigations.
On the other end, the “code of silence” in many police departments must also end. If more good, honest police officers would expose other police officers who engage in corruption, police brutality and racial profiling, the police would be more trusted in the Black community and people in the Black community would be more likely to cooperate with cops.
It is necessary to have ambassadors and liaisons between various Black communities and police departments. Officers with ties to the Black communities and politicians should work together with representatives from Black communities to air out gripes and ensure that cops are welcomed in Black neighborhoods and that people in Black neighborhoods do not feel threatened by police officers.
Hopefully through dialogue, police officers and people from the African American community can find common ground to work on and common goals to work for. Politicians, police officers and leaders in the Black community should meet regularly to discuss issues of racism, police brutality, crime and safety. What we need is more discussion, more cooperation and more understanding. Hopefully the beer, shared between Crowley, Gates and Obama will lead to deeper discussions on the relationship between African Americans and the police. So don’t be afraid. Have a beer with a cop.