Dialoguing Race and Police Brutality

JD2From equity and racial justice expert and consultant Jyarland Daniels, MBA, JD, President & Founder, Better World Branding Solutions & Consulting (right: with son Malcolm), in the wake of continued police brutality (if you want to receive a copy of the entire 8-page resource, click on the Harriet Speaks website or email Jyarland at betterworldbrandsolutions@gmail.com):

WHAT IF THEY SAY? (Frequently Made Comments)

When talking about race, racism, and police brutality, a few comments often come up. Many of us don’t engage in these discussions because we don’t know how to respond if questioned. First of all, you might consider responding to an individual via inbox (or privately) if that makes you feel more comfortable. Often times this will eliminate embarrassment and make the recipient more open to the point you are trying to convey. But following are the comments along with responses you might consider.

1. But if X had just done what police suggested then this would not have happened.

-Unfortunately there are times when non-Black people don’t immediately follow police instructions, yet the consequences aren’t deadly.

-We should have an expectation for those with training to be held to a higher standard and know how to handle non-compliant individuals without the kind of escalation we are seeing.

-Can we agree that as a society we don’t blame victims? We don’t blame rape victims, nor do we blame a person who was robbed for having money. Let’s consider that approach here. The person who is dead is the victim.

-It is a normal human reaction to move or flee when afraid. However, killing another human being by police must be reserved for when their lives are actually in danger, not when they think something bad might happen.

2. There are good police! I’m tired of people being anti-police.

-I agree there are good police. Perhaps we can work together to identify ways to help those good police have less tolerance for those among them who participate in actions that are unbecoming of the uniform.

-I am anti-police brutality. I am not anti-police. The two are very different and the distinction is important. By way of analogy, I am anti-rapist, but I am not anti- men.

3. But what about “Black-on-Black crime”? There is no uproar about that and Black people kill each other all the time.

-The phrase “black-on-black crime” is problematic. When we see crime it is usually committed by people who (1) live in close proximity to one another, and who (2) have a relationship. This is why Asians are more likely to kill other Asians. Latino/as are more likely to kill Latino/as. However, we have never heard a similar term used when one group commits violence against a member of the same group.

-There are hundreds of groups and organizations regularly working to combat violence in the Black community. I encourage you to become familiar with them. But for starters, you might read this article found in Slate Magazine.

-Violence is never something that we should accept. However, when those whose duty are sworn to “protect and serve” engage in violence against a part of the community it is required to protect, then the action is more egregious.

-One concern is police are almost NEVER held accountable for the murder of citizens, while when citizens kill other citizens they face the consequences of the criminal justice system.

4. I’m not racist, but…

-This is not a question of who is racist and who is not. But all of us have unconscious biases. These are biases that are given to us from our nation’s history, the media, and our lived experiences. The work each of us has to do it to admit and then combat those biases. For a better understanding in unconscious/implicit bias, you might read this. You can even take a (free) test to evaluate your own implicit biases here! I did it, you should, too!

-It’s important for us to have an accurate definition of “racism” and “racist.” Racism is: prejudice plus power. It is important that we understand the power component here. This is racism. If you are using your privilege and position of power to contribute to the oppression of a group of people who are not white – that is racist.

-It is no longer acceptable to claim not to be racist because you don’t use racial slurs.

-That’s great, but it’s not enough to not be racist. What is required of us is to work to dismantle a system that harms others.

-There are different levels of racism: there is individual racism, when a person uses racial slurs. There is internalized racism, when a person of the oppressed group holds views that contribute to their oppression. Finally, there is systemic racism. Systemic racism refers to biases within institutions (school, criminal justice system, police, housing, etc.) and the results of the combined effect of racism from of these institutions. When we talk about police brutality we are talking about systemic/institutional racism and not about YOU (or an officer) as an individual.


-You are expressly referring to the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. That hashtag doesn’t ignore the lives of any other group. It is a rallying cry to remind us that in this society Black people are disproportionately victims of police brutality. There is no equality in this area. So to say “All Lives Matter” ignores the fact that it is Black lives that are being lost to police brutality at an alarming rate.

-If you truly believe ALL LIVES MATTER, that’s great! I only ask that you demonstrate it by acknowledging the Black lives that are being lost at this time.

6. Blacks are being racist, too, when they blame police and say things about white people.

-Blacks, like whites, are capable of being prejudiced. Prejudice means pre-judging people based on some factor, typically race. However, because being racist requires power, I submit that Black people are not racist, because they do not hold the power in this country. White people do.

-What if white people were to focus on their own levels of racism and what they can do to dismantle systemic racism instead of seeking to focus on others? We wouldn’t want to deflect from the work many of us have to do.

-When Black people advocate for their liberation and for equal justice under the law, that doesn’t mean they are “anti-white.” When a differently-abled person advocates for wheelchair accessibility, does that mean they are “anti-walking people”? Of course not!

For more from Jyarland Daniels, read this and this.

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