In these difficult times, we must reject these false choices. Acknowledging that black life has historically been devalued does not inherently devalue the lives of others. Advocating for more and better community policing can happen in a manner that doesn’t marginalize law enforcement. Bearing witness to the legacy of racial division in our community does not undermine the necessary steps toward progress. It is possible to deplore and mourn the conditions surrounding the death of Mr. Sterling and those of Officers Jackson, Gerald and Garafola. We can oppose unnecessary, excessive force just as zealously as we oppose violence against the police.
Officer Jackson not only understood this as a black male police officer, he modeled it for us. In a Facebook post from July 8 he wrote:
I’m tired physically and emotionally. Disappointed in some family, friends, and officers for some reckless comments”¦. I swear to God, I love this city but I wonder if this city loves me. In uniform I get nasty, hateful looks and out of uniform some consider me a threat”¦. I’m working in these streets so any protesters, officers, friends, family or whoever if you see me and need a hug or want to say a prayer, I got you.
That quotation was shared with me in the initial hours after the shooting. Before the news released the names of the officers, friends of the families were hearing through social media. Upon learning of his death, a friend showed me Officer Jackson’s Facebook page. My friend described him as a “true community police officer.” Officer Jackson’s haunting comments caution us against reductionist thinking. He openly wrestled with his identity as a police officer and a black man. He called on his family and his colleagues to not let hate infect their hearts. He understood the complexities of the moment. He set the example for how we all must proceed.