Lemme tell y'all 'bout the day I truly understood that e'rybody wasn't raised the same. "Picture it: Detroit circa..." in my Sofia (Estelle Getty) voice. In middle school, 8th grade I think, a police officer visited our class. He was a Black officer and was relatively young. This day the class was quite rambunctious and cuss words were flying freely from about every corner. For it have been a magnet school, it needed some work. I said what I said and meant it. In the midst of the chaos, the cop shouted "SHUT THE &@#% UP!" or some other similar explicit statement. This was how many years ago? I can't remember everything. All I remember is in that moment, personally I was outraged. I suppose he thought he'd talk to us in a way we'd understand, but everybody wasn't on the same tip.
Now, I'm not finna pretend like my friends and I weren't talking or doing whatever 8th grade girls do or that we didn't have mouths on us that occasionally resembled sailers, but in this instance we weren't being rude and obnoxious and there were pockets of students actually waiting for silence. I completely understand elevating your tone at this point in my life I have experienced firsthand how kids and teens can take you there, but I wasn't raised like that. As a child, my parents didn't tell me to "shut the bleep up". I've been yelled at before, sure, and yes I've absolutely been disciplined, but there was a line. Surely, there were other words he could have used. Surely there was a better approach. What was interesting to me is that most of the class did not see a problem with it. They justified it partially because the acknowledgement of our own wrong but mostly because evidently they were used to being spoken to in this manner. That spoke volumes to me.
After things settled a bit and he began engaging with the class, much of the class thought he was cool. Truthfully, I don't recall anything else he had to say other than the first words he shouted at us and the following. He prompted me to come to the front of the class where he sat on the desk. I was the first student is beckoned for demonstration. No doubt it was because my body language displayed disdain. Then, he asked if I wanted to feel cuffs on my wrists. First of all, if you know me you in any real capacity, you know the answer was "HELL NO!". Now 8th grade me simply said, no thanks or something befitting as I was talking to an adult, but I know my face had all the attitude and dismay on full display. I am Black in America, even in middle school I knew I never wanted to feel cuffs on my wrists.
After that, he asked a boy in the class if he wanted to try and he was an eager participant in this tomfoolery. The boy felt in that moment the cold metal tightening more and more as he tried to free himself. The majority of the class including the participant found this amusing, but that was not cute to me. At the predominently Black school, my class comprised of all Black students and the best this officer had to give was droppin' the F-bomb and handcuffing Black students. This is a problem.
I imagine this resurfaced my mind so many years later because in today's time, a young Black officer could really hold a lot of weight as representation matters in a society where the the extremely flawed foundation has been exposed. Could you imagine if this happened today and it was caught on camera? What if this was posted on your child's social media? Would it be cool then? What if this one officer represented all the Black officers and the racist cops used this as a catalyst to remove Black officers from the force? Now, I know being Black is not monolithic and one bad character should not be representative of the whole ensemble, but that's not how we are perceived. That officer had a chance to do so much more and he failed that day.
I'm fully aware we live in a hypersensitive society and no, I am not referring to police brutality, and this society also aims to desensitize folks but that's for another time. This scenario was raggedy then, but it was seen as acceptable. This unsavory memory did not scar me. I'm not traumatized by it, but that exact scene happening today could easily evoke uproar when he had the possibility of impacting many Black students showing us that. If a more positive experience, that poorly behaved officer could have played a better hand in my very layered view of law enforcement.
Let us be mindful to use of platforms wisely. Let us embrace that though people were raised differently, basic respect could go a long way. If he used a better approach, those kids used to adults cussing then out like blanks off the street would have seen a different way to get a point across effectively. You never know what kids will remember.