Today while scrolling through Facebook I came across a status update that is profound and worth sharing. Amy Bellgardt of Mom Spark is a fellow blogger and over the years of attending many of the same events together, she’s become a friend. With her permission, I am sharing her post. With all that is being shouted out on social media, this is one that I’d like you to read. This isn’t an easy fix, but with open communication with a vision of real change for peace, I think each one of us have an opportunity to share our thoughts and make a difference.
I grew up around cops.
At 8, my mother divorced my father and moved us to a new Oklahoma City suburb where she took on a job at the local police department. She dated many cops. I attended many gatherings where cops was present. They were at my house. I was at their house. For years.
There were good cops and bad cops. My mom had a short relationship with one of the good. He actually saved me from almost drowning in a swimming pool once. He was a kind man that worked as a cop during the day and as a EMT at night. That guy was made for community service and was a good man.
Then my mom had a relationship with another cop who was a “functioning” drunk. He was never unkind to me personally, but since he lived with us for many years I was able to observe him. He also a racist, as was my mother, though neither one of them would have titled themselves that way.
My first experience with my mother’s racism was when I had a black boyfriend in 6th grade. My teacher advised my mother (um, why, because he was black???) that I had said boyfriend, so my mother had a long talk with me about how disgusting it was that I actually *gasp* kissed him because that was entirely inappropriate. Not that kissing ANY boy in 6th grade was inappropriate, but that kissing a black boy was. Even as an 11 year-old I knew that was a f*&%ked point of view, especially from a person who moved us to a suburb that was extremely diverse. Regardless, I was to only pick out the white boys to kiss.
I also learned that my mom’s cop boyfriend wasn’t the only alcoholic in the department. From what I could gather from conversations with my her, drinking was a release from the traumatic events that these cops witnessed each day, as well as the stress from risking their lives while on duty, taking on extra hours due to low staffing, etc. I have to admit that my eyes did open a bit after considering this perspective, because yeah, gun shots, dead bodies, assaults, rape…those images and emotions would be hard to process and contain day after day.
As an adult, one of my first jobs was working for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. Six years. I worked in the offender records division for a part of those years. I read records. Dozens of records. Just reading the records gave me nightmares.
I visited prisons, too. Both women and men prisons. I once stood in the middle of a pool of male inmates of all races and ages and I had never been so frightened in my life. At the time, I believe the inmate to correctional officer radio was 1:12. I had a new respect for these officers when I stood in that pool and I, again, wondered about their mental health. These correctional officers were not only grossly understaffed, underpaid and overworked, but they were still dealing with violent crimes on the inside like suicide, murder, assaults and rape. Even when I moved “up” to the Human Resources division, no one was talking about these officer’s mental health. I’m not even sure if they received a mental health screening before they were hired. It was a position that no one wanted and the state had trouble getting applicants, so I would guess they were not screened at all.
I guess my point is this: with all the horrible, horrible that is going on in the country right now with our police force, I wonder about the mental health of our police. I know that mental health doesn’t necessarily translate to one’s racism or anti-racism, I get that, but I still wonder how our cops are processing and dealing with the stress of their work because the rage and anger I see happening from them right now is TERRIFYING. What I am seeing right now is pure hate, evil and CRAZY. I suppose I am trying to find a source of that and perhaps mental health isn’t the answer. Either way, it may be something to consider, though not a fix for racism.
As for my mom, she left the drunk cop and went to having an affair with a married detective. Later, she was forced to leave the department due to committing a felony. My mother was not a cop herself, but worked in various areas of the department – intake, property room, etc.
I will admit, it’s hard for me to trust cops. And racists.
Cops and Race – Let’s Talk
This is her story. Not to be debated, not to argue, but to understand that this is what Amy experienced. We all have stories. My hope is that I am bringing up my kids in the world of the HUMAN race. Being color blind to the race, but very wide eyed to run from the hate. This is 2014. The fact that this is so real today and following the stories including the latest Eric Garner one from the beginning….just makes you want to live in a better world. I know that I want more for my kids.
I in no way think all cops need to have a mental health check, but I do feel Amy has brought up a good point. Something to consider. I do feel that body cameras will help hold both the law enforcement side and the one(s) in question accountable. But when you see what was shown in the Eric Garner case, all on tape, and it was still left to question, it does make you think.
I want to know your thoughts, but I want to keep this a healthy conversation. Having multiracial kids (Cuban, Pollock, Mexican) and being multiracial myself, yes, I am a Cuban Pollock, I have been hurt by words that even my friends have said over the years. Even jokingly, it still stings. I don’t expect the world to change over night, but I do believe we all have a place to have our voice heard. Spread love, not hate.