aNewDomain — As usual, a black person is arrested unnecessarily, experiences unnecessary violence by uniformed police officers and then dies in jail under mysterious circumstances. Our first impulse? Blame the victim.
Sandra Bland is the victim here.
She isn’t dead because she had a bad attitude with a cop. How many white people do you think come off with attitude about getting pulled over? Every day, how many? Ballpark it for me. Go ahead. And don’t you say zero. I know white people.
Don’t even try it.
Sandra Bland was smart. Uppity, even, if that’s the kind of language you like. A little verbally hostile. But cops deal with verbally hostile people all the time, every day. Go ahead and watch an episode of Alaska State Troopers and you’ll see officers behaving very professionally towards some pretty off characters.
Here’s the trip: Let’s quit blaming the victims.
I worked in developmental disabilities for 20 years. So I tend to think of it through that prism.
Let’s say while I was working in that field, a client comes onto me, a mentally handicapped person over whom I work in a position of trust. She wants to sex me up. I go for it, maybe after some soul-searching. And I get arrested.
I deserve it.
Whose fault is it, after all?
Drop the disability. Let’s say it’s a 15-year-old girl. She’s mature, she knows what she wants. She hits on the teacher. The teacher goes for it. He may soul-search, sure. Then he makes a decision.
Now he’s going to jail. And he belongs there.
No, that isn’t irrelevant. The job of the professional, the one with power and authority and privilege, to be the responsible party. It’s the professional’s job in every given situation to act professional.
Sandra Bland could have sat in her car smoking her cigarette, blowing smoke in the cop’s face, calling him every racist name under the sun. The officer still has exactly zero justification for telling her to get out of the car.
And less than zero justification for pointing a weapon at Sandra Bland.
That’s because he’s the responsible person. He’s the one who is the trained professional, whose job is about bringing down tense situations, making things safer rather than more dangerous.
The guy takes verbal abuse all day long because he’s a cop. That isn’t right, but you know what? It’s his job to handle it professionally rather than angrily or through recourse to power.
When a car hits a motorcycle or a bike or a pedestrian, that victim is getting hurt. The driver of the car is unlikely to be injured and the unprotected, lightweight participant in the accident is likely to be hurt very badly.
When you drive in Colorado in the summer, you look twice before you change lanes. You slow down at intersections, you watch for pedestrians. Of course pedestrians need to watch for cars, too. But sometimes they won’t and, as the driver, you have to be responsible.
You’ve got 3,000 pounds of steel around you if you’re in a car.
Kids hit you, you don’t hit them back.
When you’re a teacher, you teach a class and the students get out of hand? You can’t curse at them or hit them. You have to de-escalate the situation. Teach.
And if you’re a cop, and someone insults you or isn’t totally cooperative or fails to obey your illegal orders, your job is to slow it down.
Slow it down.
Don’t take it personally.
Respect the rights of the individual.
And do not. Ever. Start an individual, person-to-person power struggle.
So, one more time: You’re blaming the victim. Stop it.
For aNewDomain, I’m Jason Dias.