- By Lt. Tim McMillan
I Want To Be a Good Person, Not a Good Cop.
You may have heard me mention before that the city I work for has a violent crime rate index rating that is 300 points higher than Chicago. Basically, I don't work in Mayberry. A very large portion of our population is comprised of members of the minority and illegal immigrant communities who are living in poverty. When you work in a high-crime area comprised of mostly members of minority communities, I think most people could objectively consider this to be a recipe that would spell disaster for a cop to become jaded, biased, and even down-right racist. Based simply on the experiences that police officers are immersed in day-in-and-day-out.
In fact, for a lot of people, this only makes it more strange to see that so much of my focus is put on carrying and desiring the best for people. Especially, members of minority communities. However, the truth is I consider myself very fortunate to have been given the experiences I have had in life.
When you are a cop and you work in seemingly desperate environments, you are afforded the opportunity to see life, in a whole new way, that the majority of people never get a chance to see. Most importantly, if you are willing to take the time, earn people's trust and be open to not judging others based on preconceived notions, you suddenly realize the incredibly positive impact you can have.
You realize that some young men that others might look at and consider to be "thugs" can actually be brilliant, creative and amazing individuals. The only problem is no one has ever told them that. No one has ever taken the time to recognize it, and then tell people who grow up in disadvantaged situations, how incredible and successful they can actually be in life. Sure, I’ve seen plenty of bodies lying on the pavement, motionless, with the spark of life extinguished. However, I’ve also seen plenty of bodies end up off of that pavement as well. No longer hanging out on the corners, being pawns for the wealthy elite’s black-market commerce. I’ve seen plenty of people who others would have once considered, “wouldn’t amount to anything in life” go on and amount to being something in life. Sometimes, all someone ever needed was a person to tell them, “I believe in you.”
I learned a long time ago, some battles and wars cannot ever be won by direct confrontation or engagement. In itself this is another virtue I’ve come to learn, that has served me well. Because, in truth, when I hear stuff like, “Well don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time,” “Some people are just lazy, don’t want to work, and want others to take care of them,” or “Well, those people broke the law, they deserve to be summerly punished to the point of absolute misery and degradation from society. What about their victims!?!” I have an initial reaction of things I want to say. However, I’ve learned that saying those things don't ever ultimately do any good.
My first inclination is to say: “F$#& You! You privileged F#@&! You have no clue what actually put the people you’re talking about in the place they are right now. Because it started long before any crime they ever committed, I can assure you that. F#@& you and your self-righteous grandiose sense of your own self-importance, that you’re so much better than other people. Because you base your opinion, that is devoid of any semblance of human compassion, on your own experiences, that lack any remote comparable connection with the very people you’re putting down.”
In fact, some of them, base their opinions solely on some heartwarming story they once read about how some NFL football star made it out of the ghetto, surrounded by crime and suffering; and now they’re a multi-million-dollar professional athlete. “See they made it! Everyone has a chance, “they” just choose to be “thugs” and criminals.” What you fail to realize is that isn’t a reality for 99.9% of people, and I’m not even talking about individuals who happen to not have been blessed with superior athletic skill. Rather, what you don’t realize is that in most of those heartwarming stories, they involve a person who was just so fortunate to have been seen by some, often times private, high school athletic powerhouse, who actually don't give two s$#%’s about the individual, rather they are more interested in their potential to run for 2,000 yards and help their school make it to the state championship. Unfortunately, the kid who is out of luck is the one, who doesn’t get noticed, because the school they go to, is so underfunded, their equipment is used and handed down gear from the city rec department. The fact, you might have a kid rushing 4,000 yards a year, is irrelevant, because nobody is even paying attention.
Of course, then there is also the other problem that goes back to what I said about some of these institutions who are only concerned with a kid’s ability to play the game. They do a damn good job teaching someone all about a 4-3 or 5-2 defense, however, they spend very little, to no time concerning themselves with actually teaching the individual the virtues of life itself. Should they fall behind in their academic endeavors or even find themselves wrapped up in some criminal mischief, these institutions are quick to remind teachers, police officers, district attorneys, and judges what is REALLY IMPORTANT in life. Hint… it ain’t learning from their mistakes and bettering themselves.
Then for a very rare few, they end up making it to the big show and become wealthy and famous. I stress rare few because the majority are kicked back to the very areas they came from initially, useless to the very organizations that once loved them so much. Of course, revisiting the whole lack of concern over imparting the quality of being a good person; now when someone makes the same mistakes that society has consistently put them in the perfect position to make, our superstar is, guess what? That’s right… just another “thug.” The end result is the vast majority of people in these situations, just go ahead and accept their place in society upfront and don’t bother even trying. Honestly, what’s the point? You’re always going to be societies thug.
Of course, there is also the people who aren’t athletic, rather they are creative and have the unique ability to express emotion through writing or singing. Unfortunately, for these person’s if they share the life they’ve grown up in and give the world a peek into the emotional environment of what is life for them, guess what? Now, their considered “thugs” and worse yet, they’re actually blamed for the entire problem, because they are promoting “thug culture.” Some cop beat the bricks off of them when they were a kid, reminding them of how powerless they are in society, and then they grow-up and rap, “F$#& the Police.” Now, suddenly THEY are the bad guys because they’re talking bad about the police or starting a “war on the police.” Oh geez… you’re right. Silly me! Guys get back to enjoying your ass kicking, however, from now on keep your damn mouth shut about it.
Basically, if you grow up in an impoverished neighborhood, that is riddled with crime, all tightly lumped together thanks to strategic design going back to 1949 and the practice of “Block Busting,” you’re not allowed to discuss that reality. At least not publically. However, if you sing about pickup trucks, drinking beer, dirt roads, and partying in open fields… merely just a different environmental experience, add some string instruments like banjos, steel guitars, maybe a harmonica or two… and that ladies and gentlemen… this is real art.
Let us not forget, the genres of rock and country music, are rooted in Blues music; which was originated by African Americans in the Deep South from the African musical traditions straight out of the mouths of slaves working the fields. All of which, was created as a means to remind Africans of home, and a method of withstanding hardships or expressing anger and frustration through creativity or covert verbal opposition…
So African Work Songs sung by slaves influenced Blues music, and ultimately influenced the rock and country music we have today.
HEY! WAIT A DAMN MINUTE! I feel like the overarching theme of slave work songs seems really familiar. Hmmmmm… creative expression by a racial minority to express anger and frustration about their situation… Hmm… I feel like this reminds me of something… I just cannot place it. What could it be?
(Hint: It may or not be gangster rap music.)
Still not getting it? Got nothing? Would you like to phone a friend? Poll the audience?
IT’S GANGSTER RAP MUSIC! IT’S F$#&ING GANGSTER RAP MUSIC!!!!
What is my point in saying all of this? The point is, I don’t want to hear your crap about the inability of people who are in positions of disadvantage, desperation, and instilled learned hopelessness to not actually be brilliant, creative forces that can inspire the greatest aspects of our entire society! Because not only is that an outright lie, the only reason you don’t recognize it is because the majority steals the best parts of other's creativity and then claims it for ourselves! "Hey! Look what we invented!"
Eventually, not going with my first inclination, isn’t because I don’t get frustrated or upset by the things I hear people say, that diminishes their willingness to view other people as human beings and not subhuman beings. Rather, I recognize that going that route is in ultimately, ineffective in actually trying to overcome ignorance or help others, who may be oppressed. If you don’t understand why this isn’t effective, revisit what I said about the response to, “F$#& the Police.”
In all sincerity, even when I get upset sometimes, once the initial wave of frustration passes, I feel sorry for people who have a narrow-minded view of life. Don’t get me wrong, I feel more remorse for the people who stay in disadvantaged situations because of narrow-minded people. However, I still indeed feel a sense of regret for a person who goes through life intolerant. Because, when you live your life with a constricted view, in truth you aren’t really living life at all. You might be living, what you THINK is life or what life only means to you. However, that is not life in totality.
Moreover, when it comes to actually experiencing life, the intolerant person shares little distinction from the person who might find themselves literally imprisoned; first by society and then by their actions. The biased person and the disenfranchised person, both exist together like a dysfunctional marriage. Because, neither get to experience and see the most beautiful things in life and yet one is a result of the other.
Because, no matter what I’ve done, or no matter what I will do, I know that I have seen real joy, real splendor and experienced genuine feelings of self-satisfaction. All of those virtues never once came from anything I ever did for myself. Rather, they came from being willing to see other people as human beings, and tell them, no matter what their situation was, “I believe in you.”
Admittedly, it is rarer than it is common, however, I still have seen some of those individuals leave the streets, not in a body bag, rather leave and go on to be something in life.
It is the realization that you were able to give someone life, rather than simply ignore them as they slowly died inside, that one is able to discover the most beautiful gift one can ever receive in life. So for the narrow-minded and the disenfranchised, I genuinely feel sorry for you both. However, out of the two of you, only the subjugated can I ever truly help and that is always my goal in life. Because, the gift of life for the prejudiced person, is a gift they have to earn all by themselves.
Initially, the path away from intolerance is a route one must desire to walk alone. Once, the narrow-minded person realizes this, they just might discover, that those who they put down, are actually better than them. Because the persecuted do not willfully choose their limitations on life. However, the narrow-minded person chooses imprisoned-freedom, all by themselves.
Lastly, I never once sought out to be a great cop, and don’t even seek to do that now. Instead, I’ve always just gone out in life with the passion to try to be a great person and I’m thankful, I stumbled into a profession that gives me so much opportunity to do just that. Being a good person is the most important thing, and if I just so happen to be a good cop out of it… well, that’s just an added bonus.