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  • Karen Okonkwo

It's Not About Being a "Good" Black Person


In more recent time, I’ve spent less time upholding the people who I think are exuding common sense and “goodness”, and I've spent more time seeking to consider what factors play a part as to why people are acting and feeling differently than me. I’ve found that though I am like the “good” Black people that Candace Owens describes in her latest tweet, it is absolutely because I am a product of my environment and its corresponding beliefs. So are all of the other Black people choosing to act completely differently than me. Who riot. Who loot. Who do drugs. Who disrespect law enforcement.


It all ties back to slavery. Let me explain...

Photo source: TONL

It would be incredibly irresponsible to not take into consideration how 400 years of slavery and the understanding of things like slave patrolling can affect someone’s psyche. This psyche manifests itself into beliefs which manifests itself into our behaviors. Your household is often the first environment where you learn and pick up things, especially behaviors and they can get passed down generation after generation after generation. Behaviors are seen by individuals around us and are either copied or rejected. We can’t condemn those who copy behaviors since we can agree that there are two ways to see behaviors around us: copy or reject. It's like two sides of the same coin.


For example, a Black parent could teach their kids that cops are bad because both parents grew up seeing crooked cops plant drugs on innocent Black people and unjustly impose violence on Black people who are actually not resisting the police. So that child could grow up hating cops. That same child could also grow up rejecting the idea that cops are bad because a cop gave them a high five and a lollipop while they were walking home from school and since that moment have had positive interactions with police. The child who grew up hating cops may fight and resist a cop when getting pulled over because they recall the programming that cops are bad (and likely probably witnessed bad policing themselves). The child who rejected the idea that cops are bad may follow all orders from police when getting pulled over and may never raise their voice or verbally disrespect them. Both reactions are simply a response to their environment/programming.

Photo source: TONL

So with these two ideas in mind, who is in the right and who is in the wrong? We can debate that all day. If we can agree that all races of people come with their own sets of beliefs and behaviors: good and/or bad, then we know that the one thing we can do is trace the IMPACT of those behaviors. When the stats from 2013-2019 are coming back saying that unarmed Black people are 1.3x more likely to be killed by Police compared to White people and that Black people in general are 3x more likely to be killed by Police than White people, you have to start examining Police culture in the United States and who is made up of that culture (source: mappingpoliceviolence.org). It's worth noting in that examination that as of 2018, 77.1% of Police officers are White (source: https://datausa.io/profile/soc/police-officers).


If a Police officer has a BELIEF that Black people are inherently dangerous and thus BEHAVES with excessive force toward them in all circumstances, THAT IS A PROBLEM. You might be thinking, well Karen, why are you justifying Black people's varying reactions toward cops and not giving that same grace to cops? My answer: Black people as singular beings are not authoritative figures over the community. Police are an authoritative body of people designed to protect and serve the community. They CANNOT lead with their individual beliefs/biases. They should not lead, act out AND be PROTECTED by a police system rooted in racism either. If you are in any authoritative role and you harbor beliefs about different races and violently act on them, THAT IS A PROBLEM. If you're asking yourself, well how do we know that they are acting out of racial bias, simply Google systemic and institutionalized racism and do your own research on the several studies out there outlining its prevalence in the police department nationwide. This Washington Post article can give you a head start.

Here’s the kicker: whether you’re the Black child growing up hating cops or the Black child growing up seeing no problem with cops, in America, YOU ARE NOT IMMUNE TO POLICE BRUTALITY. If you encounter a police officer who grew up with a belief that you as a BLACK PERSON are inherently dangerous, then they will likely BEHAVE toward you in that manner.


Photo source: TONL

That’s the problem. That’s the problem that Black people are rioting and looting about. It’s a belief problem that is costing Black people their lives. To the Black people who are angry right now, the only way to shift their belief on cops is to earn their trust. It’s going to take putting legislation and policies in place like defunding the police to reallocate those funds to community resources aimed at bettering neighborhoods and banning excessive uses of force. It's going to take bias training for police and proper police education in order to ensure innocent Black lives aren’t senselessly lost again by another cop. I would love to one day believe that when a Black person is shot and killed by the cops that it was justified. I can’t wait to live in a world where I can be certain that it wasn’t a toxic belief rooted in racism that pulled the trigger.


The confusion is that there has been a general narrative that police are meant to do good for the community. But, some put that uniform on and their hearts are biased and they consciously act out on it, tarnishing the reputation of those who put that uniform on to protect and serve everyone fairly.

Photo source: TONL

So my advice to anyone trying to enter into the conversation: examine the root before you inspect the fruit. It isn’t as clear cut as “well, just be a model citizen and bad things won’t happen to you.” That thought process to address today’s current issues regarding racial injustices from police and police brutality in general is toxic and misguided.

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