Is It Racist To Have An Expectation Of Civility?

Is It Racist To Have An Expectation Of Civility?


Formal Equality Requires An Equal Expectation Of Civility

American equality is rooted in our expectations, not our outcomes. True ‘formal’ equality is an expectation of lawfulness and civility on everyone equally. That is, the “form” of the law is equal. While the enforcement of these expectations are subject to imperfect humans, the concept of this equality of expectations should be realized unanimously if we are ever to reach a post-racial society. Nothing exemplifies the long road ahead more than our disconnect when it comes to race and the expectation of civility.

There is no question that it is a tragedy any time a police officer has to take a life. Officers face a myriad of challenges and tough choices on every shift. So when a conversation turns into a hostile confrontation, we expect our police officers to posses the integrity, patience, and discipline to de-escelate the situation. But that isn’t always the outcome. Sometimes calm rational communication between an officer and a citizen breaks down. Sometimes officers carry an escalating tone into a conversation and it’s met with a similarly agitated temperament. Rarely, if ever does this turn out well for the citizen.

For all the calls of “discussion” and “awareness” over racist police brutality, there is very little common ground in the area of expectations. To state the expectation that a person obey the police and not fight back, is often met by accusations of racism. To proclaim an expectation that police officers should allow petty offenses and decline to subdue a threat based on skin color, is met with accusations of being “anti-police”. These expectations represent the growing disconnect our country faces when dealing with officer involved shootings, especially with a white officer and black suspect/victim.

One side expects too much discipline of the police officer (although I’d suggest that police work by definition calls for higher than average discipline and patience), while the other side expects too much civility from citizens. It is perfectly rational to hold higher expectations on law enforcement. We trust them with the security of our communities. When an officer fails to live up to this higher expectation, they should face consequences. If it comes to light that an officer allowed the race of a citizen to expedite his escalation during an interaction, then it can be correctly explained as “racist policing”. On the contrary, if a citizen escalates during an interaction, we must acknowledge the equal expectation of civility.

Using Skin Color To Determine An Expectation Of Civility

Is it “racist” to have a different expectation of civility based on skin color? Is it racist if someone does not expect a black man to act with equal civility as a white man. Yes. Just as it is racist for me to demand that police ignore criminal activity based on those lowered expectations.

#BlackLivesMatter has repeatedly proclaimed their lowered expectations of civility for black citizens. Their grievance, though founded on lies, is real in spirit. We must hold our police officers accountable for the life or death decisions they make. While the lies stemming from the Mike Brown and Freddy Grey cases fortified the resolve of #BLM, they now risk delegitimizing what appear to be similar tragedies in Baton Rouge and Minnesota. If there continues to be a refusal by #BLM to elevate the expectations of civility on black citizens, this unfortunate scenario will become more commonplace as both officers and citizens shed their civility and escalate their confrontations.

It is not “anti-police” to ask “why did an unarmed person have to be shot?”. It is not “anti-police” to expect an officer to posses above average discipline and patience. It is not “anti-police” to ask for justice through a trial by jury, after an officer involved shooting. However, expecting an officer to further risk their own life just to ignore or appease someone acting in a violent manner… that is “anti-police”. Encouraging animosity and disobedience when interacting with police, that is “anti-police”.

It is not racist to ask “why does a person not comply with an officer’s orders?”. It is not racist to ask “why did that person resist arrest?”. It is not racist to expect a citizen to be civilized and obey the law. However, not holding that expectation of civility based on a person’s skin color… that is racism.


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