It’s hard out there for a Black cop

By Pat Watson Wednesday February 27 2013 in Opinion
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“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names – racist slurs – will never hurt me.”


In a world already so peculiar that one struggles to precisely capture its description, there further exist remarkable dimensions of weirdness.


How weird?


Perhaps the nearest description that can be found for one situation, the one York Regional Police officer, Const. Dameian Muirhead finds himself in, is Kafkaesque. Or perhaps, a Catch-22.


Yes, there would be a need to turn to fictional literature to try to grasp the disorienting existential world of a Black police officer in a White-dominant world.


To be a police officer is to hold a position of some power and authority. Implicitly, these allowances are not automatic for Black people. As such, we have engaged all manner of coping mechanisms to navigate the myriad indignities and absurdities that make up the landscape of Black-White co-existence.


The report of Const. Muirhead’s fall through the ‘looking glass’ unfolds as a nightmare in real time: A call to respond to a disturbance at a party on a farm on a holiday weekend almost two years ago; an injured female; drunken partiers; alleged threatening behaviour from those at the party; and comments reportedly along the lines that this police officer should be seen “hanging from a tree”. And also, allegedly, derogatory comments regarding the ‘darkness’ of the Peel police constable’s skin.


One has to allege, since there are only news reports to go on at this point. But the York Regional Police must believe all that was reported of the ugly incident is true because – and this is where it bends the brain cells – Const. Muirhead is said to be a facing misconduct for “neglect of duty for not investigating the racial threat allegations against himself”.


How this all came to public attention, and again it moves into the territory of the bizarre, is that one of the alleged racist taunters filed a complaint against the constable.


As we well know, there are two basic strategies to choose from when people of colour are faced with racist arrogance and racist ignorance. One is to ignore it – for if you argue with a fool, then it may be hard to differentiate who the fool is. The other is to react outwardly, in whatever form that may take. Either way, it is a Catch-22; damned if you do, damned if you don’t.


Understandably, the police constable should report and follow up on the incident. A standard has to be maintained so that the public knows the racial status of a police officer must never be breached.


But it’s all still very head-shakingly weird.


You have to come equipped with certain courage and a strong heart to be born Black in this world. Is it any wonder then that so many of us depart it because of heart ‘dis-ease’?


Let’s hope that Const. Muirhead reaches out to his brothers in arms for support. Times such as this, one should not shoulder alone.


A note on when life on the street goes viral…


Did you hear the one about the homeless Black man in Kansas City, Missouri, who returned a very expensive engagement ring to a woman who apparently scooped it up along with the spare change from her purse that she gave to him?


The story of what happened made its way into social media, and not unlike the incident that was caught on camera phone last spring of grandmother and bus monitor Karen Klein being taunted by school children on a school bus en route in upstate New York, compassion has risen up for this man’s honest character.


The fiancé of the woman – her last name, ‘Darling’ just adds more colour to this story – set up a website asking for donations for the panhandler, Bill Ray Harris. Reports are that so far more than $100,000 (US) has poured in.


Harris may have lost much but this action indicates he has not lost his integrity. Interviewed by news media in Kansas City, Harris accounted for his honesty by explaining that his grandfather who raised him was a reverend.


Apparently, he was ingrained not to have bitterness towards his circumstances, either, since the report is that he had returned the ring to Darling, without hesitation.


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