Alex Teach on the beatalex teach on the beat
Before I begin, please allow me to establish my lack of credibility. What I’ll be writing about is a disagreement with another columnist, but saying that implies I am on remotely similar level to this man, which I’m not. Whatever I am, it’s not a columnist; I am a grammatically and morally offensive entity and a stark amateur in the world well stocked with literary professionals. David Cook, on the other hand, is the real thing.
With that said, I would like to display the lost art of “disagreeing with someone but not going pigshit crazy with hatred from this point forward.” Consider me a Reagan-era congressman as opposed to an Obama-era one, for after this disagreement he and I will hopefully have lunch where we can poke fun at one another and then politely fight over payment of the meal, which I will of course ultimately defer to him. Because like David, I’m really a very nice guy, I just happen to have to hit people on occasion.
That established, while reading his December 17 column in the Times Free Press titled “A letter to city police,” I was pissed off to no end by the fifth paragraph.
My interpretation of being told to “own up” to what he called the “violent racism that has emerged through the badge of Chattanooga police over the years” was that I and 450 or so of my coworkers were, in fact, racists and that we should apologize for such. Something similar to the “Do you still beat your wife, yes or no?” frame of unfair questioning that fiercely frustrates people, especially when they are already frustrated (the cause of which is usually on the front page of his paper).
Being accused in this way, such a blanket statement, was bold, but I was further impressed by then being told to apologize for it. The feelings this forced me to process approached something along the lines of infuriating, so rather than wait I naturally responded immediately in writing and it turns out, I was far from the only one who took it this way. (Making us all racists, of course.)
The sensitivity here for me is two-fold: One, with rare exceptions I find myself and co-workers to be exceptionally colorblind (which of course makes us racist). We serve “all,” literally, and when that “all” happens to be black, white or magenta and committing a crime or suspected of such, we treat them accordingly. Two, being accused of such creates worlds of inconvenience and frustration because there is simply no acceptable response to it other than, “I’m sorry.”
“But I have black/Asian/Pacific Islander friends!” Nope.
“But he was stabbing someone and I had to stop him!” Nope.
“I’m sorry, you’re right.” Bing! The only acceptable answer, ever. And this applies to African American officers as well…it’s a stunning thing to see them accused of racism against other African Americans. Because of their paystub, of course.
His conversation went on to further blame the police for witnesses refusing to speak to police officers about crimes because of a lack of trust, by my interpretation. My response is that these witnesses in the numerical majority of the cases he is speaking of are criminals themselves, often shot and/or killed during the process of a criminal transaction, and when questioned by police or otherwise reluctant to come forward, the reason isn’t generally because they feel there is a divide in our relationship.
It’s because they are freaking criminals that were involved in a criminal transaction and they don’t want to go to jail.
Two confirmed gang-member drug dealers shooting at one another are not prone to talk to police because they are confirmed gang-member drug dealers, not because they have trust issues with a history of racial prejudice as determined by white people and fact-selective “social justice” advocates…but because they are diametrically freaking opposed to dealing with cops.
Then? I reached the twenty-second paragraph of his column, and here is where I will concede to having my annoyance (anger) cloud my judgment, because he was right: If there is to be an apology made, the burden is on the one that holds the power, and that’s us. It’s not about right and wrong necessarily, but rather about where to start, and the little guy isn’t the place.
I (and apparently several others) took what Mr. Cook said as stating we should apologize by making an admission of guilt. That’s what infuriated me. What I now believe he was saying was straight out of another book, that we should not apologize out of guilt, but rather to admit what we’ve done hasn’t fixed the problem, and that while our intentions were good, bad things have happened, and harm has been done.
But that you’ve let us down too, and if you’ll meet us in the middle, we’re ready to try something else. We want to know what you think, and whether you’ll put the past aside and work with us.
Not an apology to admit guilt (as both sides have seized upon), but an apology to clean the slate and try something new. Experience makes me cynical on occasion, but being a “believer” does give me hope.
I get it, Mr. Cook. Let’s have another lunch and talk this over…although I’ll never admit to taking this wrong.