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I wish we did not have to talk with our kids about police killing black people across the United States. I wish we did not have to talk with our kids about the dangers of interaction with police. I wish we did not have to give our children lessons on police interactions like the Civil Rights workers were given before going off to protests and sit-ins just so they can go to the playground. But, wishes are not reality and we have to have these conversations with police.
In African-American homes all across the country children are being given police training. Children are being drilled on these and many similar lessons:
All of this in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Lawrence Otis Graham, a famous African-American author wrote a book called “Our Kind of People” about upper class African-American communities around the nation. I live in a community that is part of the suburb known as The Main Line outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania made the list. He is a famous author, speaker and attorney. Not long ago he told a story about how his children were victims of racial profiling. He had mistakenly thought that giving them an elite education and their upper class financial standing would protect them from the impact of negative racial profiling. It did not.
When my husband and children interact with police, a negative outcome, a deadly outcome is possible. It is a real fear, one based on history and on current events. It is a fear that is rational in fact based upon life in these United States. In order to maintain their licenses doctors, lawyers and other professionals are required to undergo continuing education on a regular basis. Police officers need to be required to undergo continuing education as well. The training they receive before being let loose to protect and serve is good, but it is not enough. They need to be trained regularly on a variety of matters including de-escalation of heated situations, conflict resolution, cultural proficiency, psychology and sociology. This training should be mandatory, not optional.
Training helps people to deal with situation as they arise. We all hear police respond that they shoot people when they feel ill at ease because “training kicks in.” Ongoing training in things other than the use of weapons is needed so that when police interact with African-American citizens some of that training can kick in. Police need to be trained to do more than just shoot the African-Americans with whom they come in contact. Police are supposed to protect and serve, not judge and execute.
As long as I have to train my children to interact with police, the police should be trained to interact with us and with people like my family.
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