Dear Jim, 

Would you be so kind as to mention the following to Mr. Gates and President Obama during your meeting with them: 

One of the major problems stemming from the events of July 16 is that I, now known as ‘the black Sergeant’, have had my image plastered all over the Internet, television and newspapers. Subsequently, I have also become known, at least to some, as an ‘Uncle Tom.’

I’m forced to ponder the notion that as a result of speaking the truth and coming to the defense of a friend and collegue, who just happens to be white, that I have somehow betrayed my heritage.
Excerpt of a letter that Cambridge Police Sgt. Leon Lashley wrote to Sgt. Crowley before the “Beer Summit”.

Dear Leon, 

Like you, I am a Black man. Like you, I am a police officer.

When I saw the photo of you standing outside of Professor Gates’ home, with him in handcuffs, I had a sense of trepidation for you. Then when I saw you standing by Sgt. Crowley in the above photo during the news conference and heard you express your support for him, I knew you’d be crucified by the Black (especially blogging) community. Subsequently, I read and also heard you being described as a “house negro”, an “uncle tom”, a “sell-out” and a “traitor” to your heritage, by practically every commentator.  

I have also been called these names by members of our community because of the profession I am in. However, for me it didn’t start the first day I donned my uniform. It actually started when I was a child because I spoke differently from most of my peers. My parents insisted that my siblings and I speak “proper English”, focusing on good grammar and not resorting to the “street slang” of the day. So some of my peers would tease me, claiming that I was talking like I was “white”. For others, it was a reason to give me an ass-whooping! Then in high school, because I wouldn’t skip classes to go hang out and studied hard to get good grades, I would be told I was “acting white” and called an “oreo” and “uncle tom” on a number of occasions.

We have come to realize that being both a Black man and a police officer, puts us in an advantageous, as well as an unenviable position at the same time. In fact, it a blessing and a curse! Since we are members of these two distinct groups, we see how both groups are viewed with suspicion and perceived as “dangerous”… not only by each other… but also by the society at large. We experience first hand, on a daily basis, the tension between both groups based on a real (and continuing) history of conflict and misunderstandings. We struggle it seems with very little success, to defend the actions, perceptions and motives of each group to the other, in an effort to lessen this tension and promote some understanding… if not empathy.

Like you, I love my heritage. Like you, I love my job. Like you, I know that there are some Black folks who will judge me for the uniform I wear and not for the person I am. Like you, I know that there are some police officers who will judge me by the colour of my skin and not by the content of my character. Like you, I understand that as a Black man, supporting the actions of a corrupt colleague, especially a “white” cop, does not endear us to them. In fact it gives them permission to victimize us within the workplace as well. Like you, I understand that as a police officer, defending the bad and/or criminal behaviour of those in the Black community, causes us to lose the respect of the community. We become a living confirmation of their belief that cops are dishonest and don’t care about the welfare and safety of the Black community.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will always hurt me…”

Regardless of how we may appear in public, it does hurts us when those in the Black community demonize us… more so than whatever our police colleagues may say about us. However, I believe that God has placed us in a unique position and has ordained us to a higher calling. Therefore we must rise above the rhetoric, sound bites and critics from within both groups, keep our hearts and minds pure and clear, so as to never lose sight on the truth of each situation, and take a stand on that truth… regardless of colour or profession. That may entail standing with a “white” colleague against false allegations of racism from the Black community. That may require standing with the family of a young Black man and declare that he was indeed murdered by an overzealous “white” cop. 

Finally I offer this piece of insight to you, which has helped me overcome the ignorance I am sometimes subjected to. Whenever I am called names by anyone because of a position I have taken, I remember the words of my Grandmother: “Son, an empty drum makes the most noise”. I am then reminded and take strength in the fact that there is a silent majority, within both groups, who do respect me for what I do… and more importantly… for the person I am.    

You have my support as a fellow officer.
You have my love as a Black man. 

Blessings,
Asabagna

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