If I thought that I might have a reprieve from the anti-law enforcement sentiment at my university, at least for the first few weeks, I was wrong.
I’m a research assistant (RA) doing my senior year honors thesis at a child development lab. At our first lab meeting, which was on only the fifth day of classes, the principal investigator of my lab introduced a new grad student, who proceeded to describe her developing study. She prefaced this by stating that she studies race; as usual, I braced myself, praying that what would follow would not fulfill my worst fears… but figured that this is a child development lab, not social psychology, so chances were slim she would bring up police.
And then she did.
“I’m looking at whether police trust is a racial privilege,” she announced.
(When I told my boyfriend—a police officer, and the reason that I’m so passionate about law enforcement—about the grad student’s pitch, he replied, “No, it’s a privilege for not being an asshole.”)
I tried to stay calm even as I had my typical physiological reaction (face hot, stomach dropping, palms sweating, seeing red) whenever I find myself trapped in a situation where I know everyone around me is anti-law enforcement. How sad is it that I’m literally terrified and dreading this virtue-signaling grad student discussing her “police trust” study? Were it any other political climate, I might not have the visceral response that I do. But I know my school, I know the year, and I know my peers. I know how they view the profession.
Let me take a step back, away from my emotional ties to law enforcement. In my time at my university, I have found that everyone who does “research” on this topic fails to think critically and is often times blinded by their own political, emotionally driven biases. So, to those who draw direct parallels between police and minorities, and to those who may be looking for an argument against such people, here’s what I have to say.
This grad student is looking at “police trust” by figuring out whether or not a child will go to a police officer for help when lost. However, we forget (or ignore) that parental/familial criminal background could also impact how kids view police with trust vs. mistrust. If a child has seen their parents get arrested then they obviously aren’t going to have as positive an opinion as if they’ve seen their parents have positive interactions, had positive interactions themselves, or have loved ones in law enforcement. As such, I would be interested as to whether there is any correlation between children’s vicarious experience with law enforcement—such as if their parents have been arrested or maybe DCF has intervened after an incident—and how they react to police or view them as helpful/unhelpful. Of course, these anti-law enforcement “researchers” will likely skim over this possibility or accuse me of victim-blaming, but I stand by my beliefs nonetheless.
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Case in point: my boyfriend’s department gave a kid a tour of the station once and the kid said, “You took my daddy away!” because his dad had been arrested on felony charges before. Because of this, he would probably be less inclined to approach a police officer because he associates law enforcement with a negative event—even if it had been warranted and the arrest was peaceful. Aversion for that particular reason could be independent of inherent racial privilege and pretty much come down to a kid’s logic. BLM proponents dismiss this possibility and insist instead that if a person of color doesn’t trust the police, it’s because all police are brutal racists.
Trust/mistrust of police, in some cases, could be a result of racial inequality, prejudice, and privilege; I won’t deny that these are societal issues seeping into all professions. However, in my opinion there’s also a level of social contagion, which leads to intolerance towards law enforcement, and anti-law enforcement sentiment or stereotypes/generalizations, based on a segment of incidents within the 900,000 officers in the country.
This becomes a vicious cycle where LEOs may be more reactive and fearful because they know that people completely dehumanize the entire profession and advocate the murder and abolition of police—and that the media automatically sides with the criminal. Meanwhile, minority populations develop hostility/aversion to law enforcement and are primed to feel targeted and fearful whenever they are in a situation involving police, even if they themselves haven’t experienced anything negative or if their prior experience was (1) warranted, i.e. they had committed a crime and the situation was handled appropriately; or (2) with a completely different PD or police officer.
I get to spend the entire year with a grad student devoting her studies to an issue that’s painfully subjective. As a burgeoning academic and researcher myself, I’m sick of the lack of critical thinking that goes into the field. How much will this student’s findings reflect negative experiences of racial profiling and a sense of racial privilege, versus the effect of social media and anti-police stereotypes fanning the flames of mistrust and fear? Probably a lot less than any social justice warrior will ever admit.
This just goes to show how pervasive anti-law enforcement sentiment has become. Even the psychological field, which is allegedly founded on objective truths—so much so that it is within the College of Natural Sciences at my university—is being affected by politics. The grad student in question is a minority, which makes it even more risky if I tried to propose an alternate viewpoint: It might as well be a hate crime nowadays to do that. No matter how impartial these BLM researchers attempt to be (and frankly I don’t think they even pretend to be considering they have BLM stickers all over their doors)… they aren’t.
Research is focused on the surface, superficial issue rather than many complex and underlying causes. If anyone reading this is critical of law enforcement and intends to study “police trust” as a racial privilege, let me offer you some questions you could ask rather than drawing a line from A to B and ignoring any mediating or moderating variables:
What about the lack of resources and lower income in minorities who are forced to live in poorer communities? Could that lead to higher risk of delinquency and criminal activity due to less supervision if parents are working multiple jobs? Maybe lack of mental health support influences antisocial behavior in already at-risk youths? Perhaps this is what leads to “negative” interactions with law enforcement, not because of racial prejudice?
And maybe, just maybe, that’s what causes the statistics that BLM loves to cite. Yes, there are fewer African-American people in the country and a higher percentage incarcerated. But has it ever occurred to anyone that this could be due to an entirely different race-related issue at a socioeconomic level—and not because law enforcement officers are terrible monsters who deserve to die or because these social groups are inherently bad?
To all of those who love to spread third-hand accounts (my English professor/mentor excommunicated me because I questioned a third-hand Facebook post about “police brutality” that she passive-aggressively sent me), could social media be toxic and spreading both fear and a mob mentality? Do we, as humans, blindly trust and then latch onto one or two incidents and instantly generalize those if they elicit a strong emotional reaction? Maybe that’s a worthwhile social psychology study, instead of determining whether someone who did something wrong felt victimized because of their race.
My point is we need to be more critical in our views on law enforcement-minority relations. This is an issue nobody seems to identify, especially within persistently liberal academia. It frustrates me to no end that a field I’m passionate about is claiming to be objective while running studies that ignore a lot of important facts, because they might not fully support their hostile and intolerant views. Then again, we don’t care about facts, just feelings, right?
Honestly, it’s not even October yet and already I’m fed up with my college experience being tarnished by anti-law enforcement sentiment. I’m hoping and praying fervently that this grad student’s study won’t come up too often—I’m already skipping the lab meetings where she presents—but considering a couple passionately anti-police RAs would rather work on that project than the ones they’ve been assigned, who knows what conversations I might have to hear. All I know for now is that if our weekly lab meetings ever turn into social justice warriors venting their hatred of cops, you can count me out.
- READ: STUFF WAS BEING STOLEN FROM HIS SHED. SO HE RIGGED UP A SECRET BOOBY-TRAP. NOW HE’S GOING TO JAIL.