Who are copsâ€¦the police? Mostly guys, mostly white. In the past few decades a few women, more and more â€œethnicâ€ persons: some African-American, in Minneapolis-St.
Paul they reflect the recent immigrationsâ€¦somewhatâ€¦as far as I know. Not too many Hmong persons, a few Latinos from various countriesâ€¦
Who are weâ€¦in thinking about the police â€“ wondering how they think about us, and what theyâ€™re â€œup to?â€ How many of us would like to be cops? Do police â€œlikeâ€ being cops, or filled to various levels ofâ€¦fear, import, wondering about each next person, in each approaching moment?
How do they get to be cops? I mean whatâ€™s inside their heads, their thinking, that we might get to understand in their terms â€“ more than in our reactive minds?
Also important â€“ maybe very important is the fact that they dress in â€œuniforms.â€ Uniforms seem to take individual identity and help make them all into police â€“ cops. (Where has their â€œindividualityâ€ gone?)
More signs: their cars, bright flashing lights, rear seats which can be made very separate from the front ones; painted black and white (in lots of places). Quite obvious. (Except that we might forget to notice them when weâ€™re driving a bit too fast: over the speed limit. And they can make really loud siren noises which instill us with fear and the immediate reaction to stop, and pull over.)
All this to say that the police have quite a â€œpresenceâ€ in the world: in many/most senses they are all â€œalike.â€ Uniformâ€¦has several meanings and even more connotations. (The differences between police and the military? â€“ has gotten a bit complicated and confusing especially in these moments driven by war, terror, fearâ€¦ (Observing the RNC meeting in St. Paul last fall: the police â€œlookedâ€ remarkably like military â€“ faces obscured, wearing odd/different uniforms, carrying threatening looks and clubs. Whatever it takes to â€œkeep the peaceâ€ said the mayors!)
Sargeant Crowley and that â€œUppity Professorâ€ (from Harvard no less), â€œSkipâ€ Gates. What were the exact circumstances? Never totally clear: perhaps so â€œobviousâ€ to many of us, that the moment-to-moment â€œfactsâ€ donâ€™t seem very important to the situation.
A white cop (likely with some ethnic background which might still be â€œimportantâ€ â€“ was very important a couple of generations ago â€“ Irish Catholic? Boston, a long history of Irish Catholics bathing in money and power. But we should remember the movie, â€œGangs of New Yorkâ€ pitching the Irish immigrants against the (then) white Protestant majority to taste those senses of their history. Tough (mostly) guys? Ethnics, culture: what sorts of culture do the police have? â€œWhite ethnicity: gone entirely or some residuals?
And an African American, in many ways â€œthe African-American Professorâ€ in these times when being â€œBlackâ€ is taking on some â€œnewâ€ meanings, especially as Barack Obama is our President. And Harvard: In â€œspiteâ€ of being at Harvard, Gates is probably the most important historian/critic of what is African-American. Read the rest of this entry »