“Dad, did you see that another black man got killed by the police?”
“Yes, I did. What do you think about that?”
“It’s crazy, clearly he was down. People were standing there watching them telling them to stop. The other police was just standing there. It was crazy!”
And so began another conversation about the realities of life with my fourteen-year-old daughter.
Hate is a strong word. I don’t use it flippantly. But, I hate the abuse of power! That’s what we witnessed: bad police officers abusing their power. I like the police. I appreciate their service to our community. I don’t like that there are bad police who abuse their authority. I know good police officers, and I know that they don’t like bad police officers either. I know one good police officer who exposed the abuse of other bad officers on the police force and it cost him his job. That might be part of the reason why bad police officers stay in their positions. They seem to leave a wake of victims.
Abuse of power isn’t unique to the police. If you give a person power, or authority, they might abuse it. I’ve seen ministers abuse their power. I’ve also seen congregations abuse their ministers. At some point, we’ve all been aware of a boss who was abusing power. I’m in the middle of a political campaign. Good thing politicians don’t abuse their power!
Edmund Burke once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” As a black person this gets complicated, frustrating, infuriating. When a video like the George Floyd video emerges, black people get upset. When the response to our anger is excuses, deflections, and outright silence from our white brothers and sisters… complication, frustration, infuriation. Sometimes I am asked if I would feel the same way if this kind of thing happened to a white person. My answer is, YES! Injustice is injustice. I have profound sadness that injustice happens more often to people of color. I don’t want it to happen to anyone. I also don’t understand how videos of abuse that seem to surface on a regular basis do not motivate people to do right, seek justice, work to weed out the “bad apples,” and call upon our authorities to police themselves.
Let me be clear, rioting is not the solution. Neither is blaming victims by pointing out their personal flaws, or the problems plaguing their community. I can attest that black community leaders speak out about the issues in their communities. Ministers, teachers, politicians, and community elders preach and teach the importance of education, self-respect, faith, and the Golden Rule. They do this when no camera is around. When a camera is thrust in their face, they cry injustice. The response they often receive is that they are shouting at the wrong people, and that they need to speak to their own people. They already have spoken to their own people and they will continue to speak to their own people when the camera goes away.
The argument becomes us vs. them, black vs. white, liberal vs. conservative. It is no longer about resolving an injustice, it’s about winning a debate. Edmund Burke’s words become a prophecy fulfilled in front of our eyes: Good men do nothing.
If I was not running for political office, I would have thought these ideas and may have even put them pen to paper, but I would not have had a forum to share them. So while I have this forum, I will share. And I will conclude by asking a personal favor of you.
Never be afraid to approach me if you see me acting in an unjust manner. I understand that if I win this election, I will receive authority. I don’t want to be corrupt. I want to help people, not hurt them. Sometimes even folks like me can be tempted to stray off track. So pray for me, and feel free to hold me accountable. I need it and you deserve it!
Saunders is the Republican candidate for the 33rd District state senate seat for Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Portland, Westbrook and Old Saybrook