When They Arrest Black Grandmothers...
by Nadra Enzi
"Security" is a broad canvass upon which any number of definitions can be painted.
In the hands of humane, humanitarian professionals, it is a supportive service provided to enhance and protect society, with a stated goal of minimizing violence and other negative outcomes in the performance of duty.
In the hands of racist police officers who arrested Mrs. Merlene Maten, a Black Louisiana grandmother/church elder suffering from diabetes, thirst and hunger, it means detaining someone clearly not a threat to public safety nor private property.
In hurricane Katrina's wake, the basics of life became a hundred meter dash and while she wasn't swift, her plight nonetheless attracted the worst kind of attention. To paraphrase rapper/actor Ice Cube, her "skin was her sin."
American domestic security doctrine has always been, as illustrated in the original "In The Heat of The Night" movie with Sidney Portier, a matter of locking up the handiest Negro without details like actual guilt muddying the waters.
Can anyone imagine a White female senior citizen with Mrs. Maten's issues suffering the same callous fate?
The officers involved would face termination and/or criminal charges. Regrettably, 21st Century propaganda aside, African-Americans are still essentially runaway slaves subject to the heavy hand of the law whenever someone chooses its misapplication.
Adding insult to injury are Black officers in integrated police departments who impotently stand by and allow gross miscarriages of justice to occur. After the trouble civil rights organizations undertook to institute Black police officers, can anyone honestly state their existence helps anyone but their employers and the biased status quo?
When Rodney King was being lynched by LAPD tormentors, Black police officers were on scene and did what is always done while observing civil rights violations- nothing!!
Police officers are not just mindless arrestors, though too many have this mindset. The same discretion used to prosecute is the same discretion to intervene on behalf of innocent citizens whose color outweighs their innocence.
When some sink so low that even our grandmothers aren't safe from latter day Black Codes, who will protect them?
Impotent Black mayors who can't control their police chiefs and seem unable to demand outside investigations? Black council members for cities and counties whose agenda doesn't include social justice, despite speeches to the contrary? Black media outlets often focused on entertainment or high society coverage to expose the injustice that gave rise to them in the first place? Black civil and human rights groups whose activism centers around fine award dinners and attaboy relationships with blue bloods who deny equal opportunity with relish after donating pennies on the dollar to these causes?
In the name of security Black people are being trampled.
In the name of security our tenuous grasp on personhood and possessions, including life itself, is decided daily by programmed to "keep us in our place."
Mrs. Maten could be any of our grandmothers. Her character, good name and Christian walk mean nothing to someone who views Blacks without badges or titles as cattle to be corralled.
Is it too much to hope that the charges against her are dismissed? Is it unreasonable to request she be compensated for false arrest and malicious prosecution, by the state and/or the US government?
Dare I ask the unthinkable: that the arresting officers face federal civil rights charges for what she was deprived personally and by extension, her entire ethnicity in this nation?
These cases highlight my choice not to become a police officer. As a security consultant, I get to craft policies specific to the populace with whom I'm interacting. As a slick sleeved new recruit up to Sergeant, I'd be another faceless instrument of directives devoid of my input.
The future of public safety for African-Americans must include a major role for private security. By "private security" I don't mean underpaid, underempowered souls who seem to need protection instead of providing it.
My security method involves bonding with the client and even troublemakers. Since social control isn't my goal, there is no "show of force" needed to establish that I am there to serve the interest of safety and success. While reasonable force is an option, it is so low on the totem pole that it isn't the first choice.
This method has been tested in challenging scenarios I nickname "thug management." I've dealt with inner city patrons who responded quite well to respectful treatment. They are used to disrespect at the hands of law enforcement so its opposite comes as a surprise.
This is the crux of the private security solution for my community.
Private security for Blacks, as I envision it, would become a hybrid of contemporary community associations and security companies devoted to intervention and uplift, while also providing placement in the less caring custody of the criminal justice system for those who refuse to show respect and seriously transgress against their neighbors.
These hybrids have as their goals group wellness and individual development, not incarceration and social control.
Someone like Mrs. Merlene Maten would be an object of love and service, not the loathing and sanction she unjustly suffered. When they arrest Black grandmothers, we really ought to be providing real security for our community!