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James Madison's Warning to Rogue Police Departments

02/17/2015 06:44 pm ET | Updated Apr 19, 2015
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My grandfather was the first African American police officer for the capitol in Arkansas. I am proud of him and for the unofficial advising role he had with then segregationist governor Orval Eugene Faubus on race relations.

My grandfather and Faubus held many conversations on racial matters and they also became friends -- in private. On desegregation of the high schools their differences were as wide as the Arkansas River.

But regarding violence surrounding desegregation they seemed to unite. Papa told the governor that if violence breaks out, he would be moving his granddaughter to Louisiana for safety. As a minister, my grandfather taught acceptance and tolerance amid an unjust society.

By joining hands against public violence he and the Governor secretly joined a faction for the betterment of society which indeed led to less violence (not all) for desegregation of Little Rock, Arkansas schools. They never pretended that race was not a factor in Little Rock's school problem.

So some factions can be good.

Factions can also be bad and harmful to society. Such was the warning of James Madison in Federalist Paper 10.

Madison wrote:

There are two methods of curing the mischiefs of faction: the one, by removing its causes; the other, by controlling its effects.

There are unruly and dangerous factions within local police departments that seek their own causes regardless of the general public's concerns. The causes creating these police factions are racial misunderstanding and hate. Improve racial acceptance in police departments and the faction that kills and covers up will become much weaker. Yes, it is about race.

My father lived through the worst of American apartheid. His run-ins with abusive police were always scary for us children to hear. Who would want to be mean to our father we thought? The scariest incident was when a gaggle of California Highway Patrol officers pulled him over and one put a shotgun to his head. My father was a suspect in a robbery, according to the patrolmen. They apologized and let him continue his nervous drive back home to San Diego. Like my grandfather my father never broke the law. But it was not about race -- some would say.

As a 16-year old in San Diego I tried my very best to obey the law. Yes, my father and mother gave me "the talk." I think I was in my early 30's when I lost count of the number of times I was obviously and unjustly harassed by police. Every African American male that I have every intimately known has had similar experiences. But it was not about race -- some would say.

Thanks to my grandparents and parents I learned to hold on to my pride and rebound from obvious attempts by a faction of police to put me in the system while trying to humiliate me. I was determined to never let a police officer think that their humiliation efforts affected me. It was the only way I could fight back at the moment. But it was not about race -- some would say.

The saddest hours of my American life were when I had to pull up into our local police department parking lot with my son and have "the talk" with him. After we finished the protocols for behavior around police and headed back home I cried because this circular lesson had crept back into my life, but this time involving my boy who would not step on an ant to kill it. They lesson continues. But it is not about race -- some would say.

I know those law enforcement officers who are stand up gentlemen. I have seen them run to my aid at times. I am very thankful for their presence. But I reluctantly indict them for tolerating bad police officers who diminish all of the good that police do.

Not one of my Caucasian friends can tell similar stories about their fathers and sons... not one. They live in a world where police are the praetorian guards to their comfortable lives. So the benefit of the doubt goes to the guards. They are protectors.

It is about race. And wariness of bad police officers stretches throughout the entire African American community whether we talk about lawyers or stone cold thugs. We are united in knowing that we are targeted by some law enforcement because of race.

There are gaggles of Americans who think the African American community is experiencing some type of mass hysteria and paranoia about police.

I think of a friend whose family secreted him out of the Soviet Union as a child because as a Jew he was part of a targeted class. His family knew he was under threat regardless of the statements by authorities that he was safe and could thrive in society. Tell him about mass hysteria and paranoia being part of his life. The Soviets lost him.

Do not lose me America. I am the loyal one whose ancestors through their free labor (read: slavery) contributed greatly to make this the wealthiest nation in the history of man. You can lose me with rhetoric about a just society. On that front you are already losing me.

You see at this point it is definitely about race.

It is up to a faction of police, community leaders, politicians and other people like my Papa and the governor to form and strengthen their own faction to stand up to and impede the divisive factions within some law enforcement.

Otherwise, we could end up in a situation describe by a Facebook friend:

It is really amazing how upper level management in our police system can be so naïve. Naïve to think that they exist at the behest of themselves. Naïve to think that the US citizens will continue to allow them to parade around attacking and killing unarmed US citizens. I fear that they do not realize that they are awakening a sleeping giant.

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