I signed up to receive notifications when someone comments on my post “My Brother Was Killed Because He Wore A Uniform” on one of the major law enforcement Facebook pages. I can honestly say that most feedback has been supportive and honors my brother and other police officers. Some feedback is especially meaningful. Then, occasionally, something like this appears:
I know this is a person who doesn’t actually care about these issues in a deep way. I doubt they even read my post. For whatever reasons, they have made up their mind that all cops are power-hungry and racist [yes, those words have been used in response to my article] and decided that, for those reasons, the lives of people in Blue don’t matter. I will spare you some of the worst comments I’ve seen, but I think you can imagine what they might be.
I don’t care who you are or what your background is. Life ALWAYS matters. It’s painful to know that people are so blinded by their narrow views and hate, that they simply dismiss this fundamental mandate. Life matters. My brother’s life mattered. Even this hateful person’s life matters.
But, ultimately, these are not the people one can expect to reach with a message of betterment. I truly believe that people with these hateful views are a very tiny minority of our society.
What is a lot more common, however, is that many other people have narrowed their worldview so significantly, that they are only grabbing bits and pieces of information to form their perspective on what the police means. They are only grasping at the stories and details that support their already established views. They are only talking to other people who believe the same things that they do. And, unfortunately, this happens on all sides of the discussion: the community can have detrimental ways of thinking about law enforcement, and law enforcement can have detrimental ways of thinking about the communities they serve.
This is where the change needs to happen.
We need to challenge ourselves to look beyond what we think we know to integrate information and events that, maybe, are contrary to our beliefs.
We need to challenge ourselves to see the nuances of controversial issues, and in fact, to seek out information that represents the other side of the discussion.
We need to challenge ourselves to engage meaningfully and respectfully with the people who believe the opposite of what we do.
Ultimately, we need to be open to changing our minds.