Rep James Clyburn told the Congressional Black Congress that he had spoken to his grandson about interactions with the cops, a conversation he believed he should never have to have, in which he said, “You’ve got to deny your manhood if you want to ensure that you come home alive.”
I found that fascinating because oddly I understand it. I’ve had that same conversation with my own children many times, especially the younger ones. Believe it or not, I actually did not grow up privileged believing cops were put on this planet to protect and serve. I spent my childhood in the 60’s, conflicts with cops were frequent. As a teen, I was often roaming the streets of LA. Both of my parents were arrested more than a few times. I saw a lot, I came to understand how violence escalates violence.
The reason why I had to stress the importance of compliance with authority to my younger kids, is because the culture, the media, the schools, began teaching them something completely different about authority. Challenge them, confront them, you have rights.
A few years back right from the halls of congress we had some congresscritters actually telling people , “don’t comply, don’t obey, don’t let them harass you.” It really ticked me off because that might work if you’re a well-off congresscritter, protected by laws that say cops can’t interfere with congressional business. But to hand those instructions to the nation at large was just irresponsible and dangerous.
In my dinky little community a similar message was going around and I had to hit the gong button on it. Wrong. You comply and diffuse, always. You tone down the confrontation. You stay calm and bring the level of emotion down. You do have rights and so you memorize names and badge numbers and when the event is over you, you go up the chain of command. That’s how you deal with complaints. That’s how you live to tell the tale.
That’s my first issue, I just get furious that we’re teaching our kids this stuff, that young men are growing up not understanding authority, power, and how to survive. Even the very best cops who are dedicated to the idea of protecting and serving are going to have a fear based response, an adrenalin rush if you are perceived as a threat. Make yourself as non threatening and as compliant as possible.
But the second part of this that just twists the knife even farther into this mother’s heart is that a man, one of our congresscritters, so an authority, a leader among men, has such a perverse and distorted perception of manhood, that he teaches other young men that to submit to authority in any context is an affront to your very manhood. It’s a perverse, pornographic, two-dimensional, flat, Hollywood portrayal of what it means to be a man.
I say all the time, He who is under authority, has authority, and He who is not, will not. When we begin to define manhood as your ability to resist authority rather than to walk in it, instead of strengthening and empowering men, we create a community of perpetual victims.