I have a Black dog.
The B is capitalized because, in this specific case, the word “Black” does not designate the hue of my 165-pound, gangly sack of floppy ears, fur and dookie. Omar is a negro dog. He casually forgets that the kitchen is off-limits every time he smells fried chicken. Unlike Caucasian-raised canines, he doesn’t lick people in the face, doesn’t give a fuck about mailmen, and—I swear this is true—he can wag his tail on-beat. Omar is my nigga.
White people love Omar.
As menacing as he is, white people will walk right up to him, as the sun reflects off the muscles rippling through his midnight-colored coat and pet him as if he is a Disney character or a Black woman’s afro. Omar has a Caucasian fanbase that rivals Taylor Swift, mayonnaise and law enforcement officers because dogs are a man’s best friend. And by “man’s” I mean white people. They love dogs.
Black people, not so much. Whenever I have Black or Hispanic visitors, I usually keep Omar away from the company unless they specifically ask to pet him. Omar’s existence is a constant reminder of an adage that my uncle Junior once casually uttered about his negro Rottweiler, Duchess, when I asked him why Black people are generally wary of dogs.
“White people love dogs,” explained my uncle Junior. “Black people love their dogs.”
He went on to remind me that, for most of our history in America, the sound of dogs barking meant white people were near. Slave owners used dogs as guards to signal when their human property tried to escape at night. The origin of the phrase “sic ’em” dates back to Alabama plantations. The Indigenous natives were literally fed to mongrels. In the Caribbean, plantation owners imported “Cuban dogs” to quell uprisings. Fugitive slave-hunting “patty rollers” would “release the hounds” to track down runaways. German Shepherds were used against civil rights marchers. Many police departments employed K-9 units before they employed Black people.
Black people do not hate dogs.
But we remember.
On Sunday night, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored billionaire entertainment mogul Tyler Perry with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian award for his efforts to feed and uplift others during the pandemic. During his Oscar acceptance speech, Perry asked the audience to join him in coming together, uniting, learning to love each other and yada yada yada....
“My mother taught me to refuse hate,” Perry said, Madea-ly. “I refuse to hate someone because they are Mexican or because they are Black or white or LGBTQ. I refuse to hate someone because they are a police officer. I refuse to hate someone because they are Asian.
“I would hope that we would refuse hate and I want to take this Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award and dedicate it to anyone who wants to stand in the middle, no matter what’s around the wall. Stand in the middle ’cause that’s where healing happens. That’s where conversation happens. That’s where change happens. It happens in the middle.”
Wait...One of those things are not like the other.
Racial hate, homophobia, transphobia and disliking the police are not the same. While well-intentioned, equating racial discrimination to a “hate” for police—or even including both subjects in the same paragraph—puts the onus on Black people to fix racism. It obliviates the fact that police have historically harmed Black communities. It’s “All-Lives Matter” in a tuxedo.
I wholeheartedly agree with Perry that no one should hate another person because of their race, ethnicity or their sexual identity. But how did police officers get thrown in there? According to Officer Down, the number of police who have been killed in the line of duty is down for the third year in a row. Meanwhile, the number of people who have been shot and killed by cops has increased every year since 2016.
No one hates police officers. More kids want to grow up to become police officers than much-needed professions like teachers, scientists or wig technicians on Black television productions. Police shows are one of the most popular genres of entertainment. Most people (including the Black variety of human beings) know at least one or two police officers. I don’t know if Tyler Perry or others are aware of this, but Black people aren’t born police officers nor do they come from laboratories. I can’t find the specific study, but I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that the vast majority of law enforcement officers came from families and even have friends. Even among the people who they disproportionately stop, frisk, arrest, brutalize and kill, hating police officers is not a thing.
The notion that Black people hate police officers is an insidious generalization borne of fragility, privilege and white supremacy. Throughout history, every Black movement for freedom and equality has been weaponized as a tool to demonize anyone who isn’t white by conjuring up these kinds of false equivalencies.
It’s why speaking out against systemic racism has been categorized as “race-baiting” and “cancel culture.” It’s the reason why white people believed that Martin Luther King Jr. was a reverse racist. It’s why 85 percent of Americans believed that communists were a part of the civil rights movement. It’s why whites considered Ida B. Well’s fight to end the lynching epidemic as an attack on white society. It’s why Alabama schoolchildren were taught that Klan violence during Reconstruction was necessary to “make the other Negroes understand they must be honest and keep the laws if they wanted to stay in the South.
“The loyal white men of Alabama saw they could not depend on the laws or the state government to protect their families,” explains the authors of the textbook Know Alabama. “They knew they had to do something to bring back law and order, to get the government back in the hands of honest men who knew how to run it.”
States like North Carolina passed laws to prevent enslaved Africans from being educated because according to an 1830 North Carolina law, “the teaching of slaves to read and write has a tendency to excite dissatisfaction in their minds and to produce insurrection and rebellion to the manifest injury of the citizens of this state.”
See? We’re the ones with all the hate in our hearts. It’s always us.
This illogical strawman argument is not just factless, it’s dangerous because it engenders the belief that both sides need to move toward a centrist position where all our problems are solved. Where is this race-neutral oasis of freedom that Perry refers to as “the middle?” And how does it work?
So, if Black people stop hating the police, the police will stop killing us? Will they discontinue pulling us over at higher rates, too? Will they stop searching us at twice the rate of white drivers? Will they stop using force at twice the rate? How about drug arrests? Does it also wipe out the longer prison sentences, too?
Somehow, we’re supposed to believe that America will stop doing the thing it has done for the entire history of this country and all Black people have to do is change their attitudes. I had a talk with the Blacks, and while we would normally be in favor of this obviously easy compromise, there was just one problem:
Black people don’t hate police officers.
According to a Gallup poll, Black Americans—even those who have had negative encounters with police—want police present in their neighborhoods. Three out of four Black people say the recent protests are about holding police accountable, according to Pew Research. While Black people generally believe that there is bias in policing, they also believe there is systemic racism in education, the criminal justice system, financial institutions, the electoral process, the medical industry and even stores and restaurants.
Acknowledging that racism exists is not the same as hate. Black people don’t hate the police any more than they hate teachers, lawyers, bank tellers, poll workers, doctors, cashiers, or the person who works fries at Burger King. Such a simplistic view of Black people’s relationship with the police does more harm than good because it ignores the “systemic” part and the “racism” part of systemic racism.
Painting the desire to eliminate white supremacy as hate is as stupid as an air conditioner repair person responding to a call on a 110-degree day by asking: “Why do you hate the sun?”
But Tyler Perry is right. Black people should “refuse to hate someone because they are a police officer.” I agree that Black people should be able to “stand in the middle” because that is where the healing and the conversations happen.
I wonder why we can’t?
Maybe it’s the fault of the same people who patrolled for slaves, used lynching as a tool for terror and sicced dogs on kids who wanted equality. Even though Black people have been policed this way throughout history, America has stubbornly refused to do anything about it. Every generation, from enslaved Africans to this current generation has uttered a version of the Martin Luther King’s plea at the March on Washington: “We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.”
But the most amazing thing is, Black people still do not hate the police.
Oh, but you better believe...