1 PoV by 1 PoC: One Point of View by One Person of Color
(A response to the McKinney, Texas pool party incident. You can find the video here.)
I grew up in Collin County, and McKinney, Texas is the county seat. I lived maybe 15 miles from the site of the pool party where a law enforcement officer was filmed throwing a 15 year old black girl in a swimsuit to the ground and pinning her there with his knee in her back. I watched the YouTube video of this event with my 11 year old son, and was horrified by what I saw happening just a few miles from my beloved childhood home.
Honestly, I am hesitant to write this because it does hit so close to home. As a teenager, my run-ins with law enforcement in Collin County were all extremely positive. I was an athlete and an honor student, and the police officers at my school knew me by name and joked with me in the hallways. My dad used to like to tell a story about being pulled over for speeding and having the officer look into his car, see me in the passenger seat, call me by name and say hello, and then walk back to his car and drive away. So, I didn’t want to believe that the officer really behaved in the appalling way that I saw on YouTube. I wanted there to be a justifiable reason for the behavior. But, as I’ve read the news stories and listened to interviews, the evidence points disappointingly toward an inappropriate use of force by the officer against the teens.
I’ve worked in both a youth detention center and a youth behavioral rehabilitation center, and my experiences give me some insight into the difficulties faced by those who have to enforce rules in a large unruly crowd. I get that it’s incredibly hard and potentially dangerous and when the adrenaline gets going, your self-preservation instincts kick in and complicate things. But, having been on that side of the fence, I also know that pulling a gun on a group of clearly unarmed teenagers is not ok. NOT OK. The gross misuse of power in the video is awful and shameful and I made my 11 year old son sit and watch it with me because as the mother of a brown son who tans quickly to a beautiful dark brown in the summertime, this video terrifies me. I hate that I have to show him these kinds of videos as a cautionary tale of what can happen when too many brown kids congregate.
I watched the video several times, and I don’t know about you, but I had to wonder, “How the hell was the kid with the video camera able to walk around filming when everyone else was thrown to the ground or yelled at to sit down and shut up?!” I looked for information about the kid who was filming in various news articles. I discovered that his name is Brandon Brooks, and I was disturbed to find that Brandon Brooks is white. Now, I’m not saying the cops were racist, per se…I’m just saying that the lone white kid was allowed to roam free whilst the black kids were thrown on the ground, cursed at, and treated like criminals. So…ok, I guess what I’m saying is that this was racist and that is really, really shitty.
Maybe I was blissfully oblivious, but I never had to worry about these things growing up in Collin County in the 1990s. I feel like we are living in a weird resurgence of the 1960s. In 2015, I shouldn’t have to sit down with my son and say, “You need to be especially careful because this is a scary time to be a brown or black boy in America. Tensions are high, and not all police officers are on your side. Just because you’re not doing anything wrong doesn’t guarantee that bad things won’t happen to you at the hands of those sworn to protect you.” I’m sad and I’m furious that we live in a time when my twin 3 year olds turn to each other and whisper, “Is that a nice policeman, or no?” when they encounter a law enforcement officer on the street. And, yes, I do teach my kids that you cannot trust all officers of the law. I teach them that because so long as incidents like the McKinney pool party are occurring, so long as the Brandon Brooks’ of the world are roaming free while the children of color are thrown on the ground, cursed at, and mistreated, I cannot trust that law enforcement officers will protect my children. And that’s a big, big problem.