In 1988, the hip hop group, N.W.A. — two-fifths of which comprised Ice Cube and Dr. Dre — recorded a song that, at the time, was a bold, inflammatory public anthem against our nation’s most powerful enforcers of the law. It was titled “Fuck Tha Police.”
The song is pretty straightforward. It’s decrying police officers, who, the rappers believed, targeted black men simply because of the color of their skin.
In light of everything that’s going on 27 years later, it may as well have been written today.
Young people — especially those who live in peaceful, affluent communities where clashes with police are extremely rare — may be horrified by what has happened in places like Ferguson and Baltimore recently. For some, it may be eye-opening that an entire city can riot against police. A lot of us grew up revering police. They’re our protectors. Our heroes.
But we need look no further than that N.W.A song to remind us that there are some who have long felt the complete opposite. Who believe that police brutality and racial profiling is endemic.
Call it white privilege. Call it ignorance. But the fact of the matter is, there’s too many people who fail to understand that others who live in communities very different than theirs have very different worldviews. And that, for me, has been the biggest thing I’ve taken away from what’s happening in Baltimore.
Labeling the rioters as “animals” or “savages” is too easy. It’s also a very opaque point of view because you’re failing to see the situation from different vantage points. The real intellectual challenge is to try and understand why the rioting is happening before posing judgment.
And that’s not easy either. You’re not going to hop on a train and visit Baltimore. But read something. There’s articles out there. There’s interviews. There’s also crime, poverty and racial statistics that can be easily searched for online.
On the same level, anybody who is allowing these recent events to totally dictate their perception of police is also belittling the situation.
Like any profession, there are shitty people who are police officers and there are wonderful people who are police officers. But unlike any profession, they wake up every day knowing that the violent nature of their job could make it their last.
Letting one highly publicized crime influence your overall opinion on cops is equally as ignorant as judging African Americans based on those who were rioting in Baltimore.
At the end of the day, all any one wants — cop or civilian, black or white — is to go about their day safely. Until we all finally understand that, and see each other eye to eye, small pockets of brutality and disorder are still going to pop up. It’s not “Black Lives Matter.” It’s not “Blue Lives Matter.” All lives matter.
Violence shouldn’t ever be a means to an end. But sometimes there’s so much ignorance, distrust and feelings of hopelessness out there that it drives people to a breaking point.
A lot has changed since 1988 when N.W.A recorded that song. I doubt Dr. Dre and Ice Cube ever thought they’d see a black president.
Maybe in 2042, we’ll all be singing different tune.