Research shows that black men in male-dominated professions largely have amiable relationships with their white male coworkers, unlike women, who have to walk a fine line.
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Wright that he believes inherent fear and distrust can be traced back to slavery. I think this fear of black men is real. As a black officer, sometimes you feel like people expect or want you to pick a side — when in fact you can be both pro-black and pro-police. I encourage my fellow officers to get out of their cars and meet people.
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Interact with people who are different than you. To be honest, I think that inherent fear comes from our history. For whatever reason, we as black men are looked at as the ones who are going to harm your daughters, the ones who are most likely to rob and steal and kill. I think that has a lot to do with the perception black men face on a daily basis.
It goes back to the relationship black males and white males historically have had. But we have to keep working toward that. Some people panic when they get pulled over, and just jump out of the car. My mindset is safety — mine and theirs — and to be professional.
The two go hand in hand. I speak to people the way I would have them talk to me.
My goal is to put you at ease. I tell people to be safe. It sounds simple, but when you interact with the police, do everything they ask you to do. Do everything they ask you to do to the 10th power.
I mean everything — so you can go home to your family and so he can go home to his family. If you already believe that white cops are afraid of blacks — if you truly believe that — then set him at ease. He has a gun. Sometimes the toughest thing to do — especially if a police officer is blatantly overstepping and being overly aggressive or abusive — is to stay disciplined.
I tell my kids — kids I coach — that discipline is not what someone does to you; discipline is what you do in response to it. Remember, this officer has a gun. He has the authority to take your freedom and your life. So, take care of you. We can only control what we do — not what others do. But when the protests went south and went to the rioting, I was disappointed in my black people.
And to know that they were trying to stop cars on the freeway, I was disappointed in that. That could be my wife in her car — with our kids, trying to get home.
I was really disappointed in their behavior. There were other nationalities out there — but what you saw was us out there, as the majority. The way law enforcement is portrayed makes it difficult for us to do our job.
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All of the negativity only does one thing: incite fear. It might be hard to hear this, but things are getting better. We have more transparency today than we ever have. As officers, all this is going to do is make each other better when we hold each other able.
We need to do that more now. Is there tension between black and white police? From where I sit, I say no. We have these conversations and ask tough questions when we see shootings: Was this shooting justified?
What did the person do to make the officer take action? Or what did the officer do to exacerbate the situation? I hope things get better, I really do. So everything gets documented some kind of way. Before you go into an uproar, take a closer look at our day-to-day encounters with people. But I also believe that with a little bit of effort from both sides, we can repair the relationship between law enforcement and civilians, black men in particular.
Shaunte Southern, who has been with the Gastonia Police Department sincewas promoted to sergeant earlier this year. The father of three and part-time high school football coach is a N.