Monday, August 2, 2021
My Response to “Friends, Racial Justice, and Policing” by Cherice Bock
First, let me give a few notes on my past that have to do with Cherice Bock and with Friends Committee on National Legislation.
#1 I’ve been a part of the Quaker movement since my first visit to a meeting in 1967 in Philadelphia, PA. That occurred when I was serving my conscientious objector service in a mental hospital for children and teens, after I was drafted.
#2 My wife and I have read information on racial reconciliation, justice, and peacemaking by FCNL for many years. We always found FCNL to be a voice for justice with a moderate tone, emphasizing compassionate listening and peace-making, unlike many groups which have sometimes been strident, ideological, and inaccurate in their writing.
#3 When Cherice Bock was part of Freedom Friends in Salem, Oregon. I regularly read her informative articles because of her emphasis upon spiritual reflection and her concern for the environment. Even though my wife and I were members of the Sierra Club for years, etc., Cherice Bock’s articles helped me to gain new understandings of ecology.
As I recall, her articles were warm-hearted, fair, and passioned. Kudos for her.
HOWEVER, she seems to have changed. At least her article for FCNL is disheartening, makes false ideological claims, and contradicts the many news sources I followed when studying the protests in Portland last year.
Side note: It is possible that all the news sources and news videos—including ones from the Portland TV station—that I watched are incorrect. Maybe, they were all wrong, and I failed to see news accounts that were more true to the actual crises there in Portland, Chicago, Minneapolis, etc. But I doubt it.
Please readers, if you have contrary video evidence of police in Portland or elsewhere attacking peaceful and civil protestors, please send me url and I will watch it.
PART #1: I am thankful that Cherice Bock started out by acknowledging/referencing the historical evils that were done to Indigenous people of Oregon.
Too, often very few Americans now living know anything about the immoral and unjust actions of early Oregonians toward people of color (including Native Americans, Asians, and Blacks).
From libraryguides.lanecc.edu/kalapuya: “The Kalapuyans are a Native American ethnic group. Many of their contemporary descendants are members of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon. The Kalapuyan traditional homelands were in the Willamette, Elk Creek, and Calapooya Creek watersheds of Western Oregon. They hunted and gathered as far east and west as the Cascades and Coast ranges and traded with the Chinookans to the north and Coos peoples on the coast. Their major tribes were the Tualatin, Yamhill, and Ahantchuyuk at the north, the Santiam, Luckamiute, Tekopa, Chenapinefu in the central valley and the Chemapho, Chelamela, Chafin, Peyu (Mohawk), and Winefelly in the southern Willamette Valley. The most southern, Yoncalla, had a village on the Row River and villages in the Umpqua Valley and so lived in both valleys. The major tribal territories were divided by the Willamette River and its tributaries.” https://libraryguides.lanecc.edu/kalapuya
One needs to keep in mind however, that like ALL of us humans, indigenous natives of the America were immoral and unjust at times. Evil isn’t only lived out by only white Europeans. (Heck, over a million white Europeans were enslaved by North Africans and the Ottoman Empire between the 15th and 19th centuries!)
While the Kalapuyans were stolen from, oppressed, killed, and displaced by whites invading from the east coast of the U.S., the Kalapuyans also engaged in wrong actions before white Europeans ever showed up, including enslaving others:
“As was the case for many tribes of the Pacific Northwest, the Kalapuyans practiced slavery, with slaves generally obtained through trade or as gifts. Northern Kalapuyan groups, such as the Tualatin and Yamhill, would obtain slaves through trade with other tribes. Slaves would be obtained by raids on distant tribes or through servitude related to paying off debts. Slaves were considered a form of wealth and were used for the purchase of desired commodities, including beads, blankets, and canoes.”
#2 Charice Bock: “I think it is incredibly important for white people to tell these stories and do the emotional labor of trying to communicate about police brutality, its links to racism, and the bigger links to economic access and natural resources.”
In this short sentence, Charice Bock combines truth with inaccurate claims. First, I agree that European-Americans, including those who live now (such as myself, of Scottish, Scandinavian, German, and English ancestry*) ought to research history to understand what has been done wrong, (as well as right) and make diligent efforts to correct any evils of the past that still shadow the present.
Second, in contrast, her next phrase is an example of inaccuracy and ideological untruths that are contrary to the facts of this last year.
Related to these false statements, is her inaccurate claim that “Police forces emerged in this country as a way to return escaped slaves to their masters.”
Based upon my extensive reading of scholarly books and teaching American literature for many years, I think it is valid to state that some police forces in slave states did at least partially come from slave patrols.
But policing in the U.S. came because of many other reasons as well. It is a distortion of history to make the claim that American police came from slave patrols. Some of it did, but in many cases it didn’t.
Boston allegedly established the first city police force in 1751, in Boston in 1838, and New York in 1845. None of those were established as a slave patrol!
Boston’s police force was established to protect the harbor, etc. from criminals.
“…by the late 1880s, all major U.S. cities had police forces. Fears of labor-union organizers and of large waves of Catholic, Irish, Italian, German, and Eastern European immigrants, who looked and acted differently from the people who had dominated cities before, drove the call for the preservation of law and order, or at least the version of it promoted by dominant interests. For example, people who drank at taverns rather than at home were seen as “dangerous” people by others, but they might have pointed out other factors such as how living in a smaller home makes drinking in a tavern more appealing. (The irony of this logic, Potter points out, is that the businessmen who maintained this belief were often the ones who profited off of the commercial sale of alcohol in public places.)
As for “police brutality,” some officers do fail their duty and engage in brutalty. All professions have those who do what is immoral and unjust. It happens with medical malpractice, biased court decisions, religious leaders' acts of molestation, unfair teachers, etc.
HOWEVER, it is not the present action of the vast majority of police in the U.S.
On the contrary, when many thousands of BLM demonstrators attacked police last year, including injuring about 50 Chicago police officers, the latter being greatly outnumbered by the violence of the protestors, most police actually were praiseworthy for their limited defensive actions.
In my own educated judgment, law enforcement oficers were way too lenient, letting violent demonstraters get away with assaults, destruction, and even arson!
IF in doubt, for instance, watch the YouTube video by the Black Chicago Police Chief who documents moment by moment the planned intentional violent attacks of the protestors against a few Chicago officers trying to do their duty.
Watch the news videos, again, of the many violent attacks by Portland protesters all last year!
Many of these demonstrators are NOTHING like the peaceful civil rights workers of the early 1960's and late 1950s such as at Birminghan where even when viciously attacked by police and their dogs and fire hoses, those prptesters continued to live by nonviolence.
In Portland, repeatedly for over 100 days, violent protesters attacked police, committed vandalism, some even arson and did many thousands of dollars worth of damage to the Federal Court House in Portland.
It appears, based upon many news accounts of those horrific days that the violent protesters in Oregon misbehaved like the violent protesters who attacked police and broke into the Capitol on Jaunuary 6th.
The destruction of thousands of businesses in Minneapolis, and other cities, IS violence!
Haven’t you read about the many business owners who have lost everything?
Small stores operate on very thin margin. Vandalism against them by protesters harms the owners, some of whom are Blacks and other people of color.
Even IF, no humans suffered great loss, protesters using violence in the pursuit of justice is a severe violation of moral realism. The “end” never justifies the means.
Furthermore, violence of all sorts is immoral and unjust, like Martin Luther King emphasized.
As for the claim that U.S. police are guilty of racism, it’s partially true. In my own limited life, I’ve met racist cops. Their prejudice is appalling!
HOWEVER, most law enforcement officers aren’t racist. Heck, many of them are Black, Asian, and other minorities, and they are dedicated to fair treatment, equality, and justice.
During my teaching career, I taught at least 2 high schools that were mostly minorities. In our classes we had Black, Mexican-American, Filipino, Arab, Hmong, Vietnamese.
Tragically we also had gangs including at least one white gang.
When over 100 students of 2 different minorites started a horrific fight on the high school field in California, we had 11 squad cars on campus.
Those officers did an amazing job of protecting innocent students and stopping the violence!
And here is one powerful example: When my wife and I were members of a BIC church (part of Mennonite world) in Tulare, California, one of the elders was a Mexican-American police officer. He came from a poor family, his older brothers were in gangs, and when he got to his early teens, he broke the law.
HOWEVER, unlike so many tragic cases like this where teens have bad families including gang members, who themselves then go down that crooked path, a police officer, rather than only do his duty and arrest the teen, took a personal interest in him for himself. By that police officer’s interest, the teen left crime and gangs, and eventually became an officer himself. (It’s a wonderful testimony he shared one Sunday to the congregation.)
Of course, there are plenty of true stories of police officers being prejudiced.
But most police aren’t racist nor are they unfair.
That doesn’t take away from the facts that there are some racist officers who harm innocent individuals. Those officers need to be arrested and strongly opposed.
To be continued--
In the Light,