The Police Badge
Last week, I removed a Fraternal Order of Police badge that was on the back of my car. The badge came with the car when my brother-in-law sold it to me—he had worked for a period of time with his community department. He encouraged me to keep it because it could help me gain favorable treatment in a future situation.
I’m disappointed that my cognitive dissonance with this privilege was not prominent until so recently. It was so easy to take it for granted because it faded into the background of my everyday existence. But the process of unpacking these privileges has helped me better understand my own stories and to relate better with the different, often less privileged experiences of others.
Removing the badge was a pretty minimal action on its own. It entered my conscious for the first time in several months, and my intuition was crystal clear and immediate to remove it in light of my awakening around police violence and racial inequity. I pulled increasingly hard at the badge until its plastic detached from the adhesive, leaving a gray, puffy residue. Removing that for cosmetic purposes will be for another day.
The broader meaning of this simple action is how it comes up when I visit my family next week, including my brother-in-law. I don’t know anyone more observant than he is. He was my perfect companion at the Bronx Zoo because I would spend several minutes trying to find the birds in the trees while he would just point them out – here, there, and over there like it was nothing. So, if I don’t say anything about removing the badge, he’s definitely going to notice. And we’re most certainly going to discuss these current events over several days of time together. We first discussed the protests weeks ago over the phone and I hung up very frustrated. He and my family in general have different perspectives than me about the protests and their systemic implications.
This time around, I hope we can create a lot more space to talk about the life experiences that shape our perspectives on this issue, and to approach them with love, deep listening, and understanding. My brother-in-law is a wonderful man who I know served his community with the best intentions. However, in a different life experience, emphasized by my recent move to Richmond, VA, my work, and my interactions with rising black leaders and community members, I’ve come to new conclusions about the systemic reforms needed in our society. As passionate as I am about my favored solutions, my brother-in-law has a unique story and experience that needs to be told and shared as well. So do my other family members. I think particularly about my dad whose life experience was shaped by rising from difficult working class environments in Brooklyn to become a successful physician.
If we can have this kind of conversation, where each of us can be deeply heard and understood, it would serve a much more meaningful purpose to me than the simple act of removing a badge.
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