Published 07/15/19 | Reading Time: 4 mins 9 secs
Editorial | By Nehemiah D. Frank, founder & editor in chief
Understanding another’s culturally racial perspective is a difficult task to muster, especially when your view is on the polar opposite end from the other’s point of view.
Depending on which side of the spectrum, one is on, determines the level of social power she or he may hold.
Social power is defined as the potential for social influence and is determined by the available tools one has to exert control over another — that could be affected by one’s wealth, political affiliation, and even, gender and race.
Hence, a white heterosexual male, born to wealth, and happens to be a Republican and Mayor in a predominately Republican voting state, is positioned at the acme of the social power pyramid.
It’s, therefore, difficult for a person in this position to understand the challenging plight that most poor and middle-class Black and Brown Americans face because of the nature of his place in social power.
When he to all appearances tries conversing with those to his opposite end, to seek and understand the others’ perspective — in hopes of arriving at some positive outcome, sometimes that dialogue can be like trying to prevent another ship — ironically named Titanic — from sinking.
Productive conversations around race are nearly impossible unless the inexperienced-party or individual decides to risk it all by moving out of their comfort zones and getting proximate with those experiencing adverse issues — in this case, with community members who have experienced negative encounters with Tulsa police officers.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or the world’s top sociologist to understand why most Black Americans are terrified by the mere presence of law enforcement officers, especially if all police officers, approaching, are white.
The history of racial violence and terror in this country against Black Americans has often been aided by the assistance from the local government, which underscores the validated biases that Blacks have towards America’s law enforcement agencies.
And the Tulsa Equality Indicators is indicative of that in this city.
At last week’s city council meeting, Mayor GT Bynum delivered his perspective and narrative of the ride along he did with the Tulsa Police Department.
Coincidentally, the same day as his ride along, JUSTulsa, a group of local activist, happened to be canvassing the exact neighborhood.
JUSTulsa’s goal was to educate the community on citizens’ rights and to inform them about the public Listening Sessions that the City of Tulsa was hosting.
Mayor Bynum felt that the police officers were non-threatening and were friendly to the people they encountered.
The community and local activist were of the perspective that the police officers’ mere presence was hostile and that their demeanor was adversarial to those the police encountered.
The community and local activist perspective should have been predictable by any person seeking to understand the plight of the opposite lens.
As I previously mentioned, however, this is difficult when you are on the opposite end of that social power strata.
In this case, Mayor GT Bynum is only capable of viewing through the lenses that he was born with and the lens that he currently sees through. That lens — very few Americans get to experience. And it is because of his ascribed status that makes it difficult for him to try seeing through the lenses of others.
At the beginning of Mayor GT’s interjection, he admittedly said, “There are people who are actively seeking to run against me because I won’t back off on the Office of Independent Monitoring.”
I am of the view, that that statement alone places him in a socially troublesome position because, in his opinion, it can be implied that he will be overtly of the opinion and on the side of law enforcement officers in order to appease the Tulsa Fraternal Order of Police from getting more serious about finding someone to run against him.
When Mayor Bynum makes declarations like that, the Black community seemingly feels alienated and that they don’t have an ally in the person whom they’ve elected.
Perhaps to the Mayor, their votes are less important because Republicans currently suppress the Black vote in Tulsa, Oklahoma. And until that happens, it’s difficult for marginalized groups to hold the Mayor accountable. This is what white supremacy looks like regardless of if the Mayor’s opinion was right, and his account was the truth or if the views of the activist were right and their statements were also a truth.
The fallacies lie in various perspectives.
And in my opinion, validated past experiences will always hold weight until the party whose mere presence doesn’t trigger post-traumatic stress to those whom they swear to serve and protect.
Furthermore, coming into a community because the belief is everyone living in the neighborhood has the potential to engage in criminal behavior, as a result of statistics, isn’t what most Black Americans would consider being community policing. That would be irrational for them to think that.
Moreover, if Mayor Bynum thinks that what he saw in his ride along is community policing, then Tulsa’s Black community, Mayor Bynum, and the Tulsa Police Department aren’t on the same page.
I think that community policing looks like the article that we published earlier this week — the one where a black police officer gathered community members to help clean up a local park after Fourth of July celebrations. Another example of what I believe is community policing is former Tulsa Police Community Resource Officer Popsey Floyd playing basketball with kids and ensuring that they have meals to eat.
Community policing doesn’t look like an officer asking a young man countless times if there is anything in the vehicle that he should know about and running his license or ID and asking why he’s wearing an ankle monitor. People in the Black community would say that that’s harassment and not community policing.
Community policing is asking how that young man’s day was and what his aspirations and ambitions are for his future — asking him: What can I do to improve your life? That’s community policing; that’s relationship building, that’s bridging the gap and mending the trust divide between Tulsa’s Black community and the Tulsa Police Department.
Nehemiah D. Frank is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Black Wall Street Times, an educator, TEDx alum, blogger for EdPost, and Community Advisory Board Member for the Tulsa World.