Revisiting Christopher Dorner and the Importance of Being Proactive over Reactive

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Revisiting Christopher Dorner and the Importance

of Being Proactive over Reactive


Dr.  Joyce Watford is an educator and a Descendant of American Slaves.

July 28, 2016

Historic, systemic police misconduct against blacks happens almost on a daily basis. However, Christopher Dorner, in 2013, tried to alert us to a growing problem with policing, social justice, and civil rights violations against blacks.  Remember him and how he was portrayed (or demonized) in the media? 

In case you have forgotten, Christopher Dorner was a veteran of the United States military and a member of the LAPD who broke rank with the brotherhood when he complained to his superiors about the misconduct of some of his fellow officers  in black (and brown) communities.  The brotherhood turned on Dorner, ostracizing and firing him, causing him to lose both his economic livelihood and veteran benefits.  With no one to listen to him or offer him help, he was driven to take matters into his own hands, and go after the LAPD himself.  Of course, the end result was tragic for Dorner but, even more so, for us as a nation and a people. We neither heeded nor heard Dorner’s message.  Instead, we treated him with blind eyes, deaf ears, disdain, and contempt, only to be hit hard with the truth of his message in subsequent exposures of historic, systemic patterns of police violence and violations against black males (and blacks in general).   One cannot help but wonder whether the excessive police force against blacks, which we are forced now to confront, could have been abated, if we had regarded Dorner with an urge to give proactive attention to his complaints in order to avoid the tragic and costly reactive postures we are forced to deal with now in the aftermath.

Of course, hindsight is always 20/20, which is, however, never an excuse for being blatantly and intentionally arrogant in our negligence.  We, as a nation and a people, can never be totally blind and ignorant of historic, systemic racism and white supremacy in our country.  They are as much a part of our national culture and identity as are “apple pie and baseball.”  The reason that racism and white supremacy are given such great tenacity in our country is economic.  The persistence of racism and white supremacy, ironically in the “land of opportunity and plenty,” is driven by who will and will not partake in the bounty.  In our county, tradition dictates that decisions be made on race and skin color, with white skin and light skin carrying overriding favors.  The police force was created to protect and maintain the tradition of status quo.   Revolutions, revolutionaries, and diversity are threats to the status quo and therefore, according to tradition, must be contained and/or eliminated by the police. 

It goes against the grain of tradition for blacks to be regarded as part of mainstream status quo.  After two major civil rights revolutions in our country, not much has changed in regards to race traditions.  The last civil rights revolution occurred in the lifetime of many of us who are still alive.  We were either observers or participants.   President Lyndon B. Johnson had the courage to attempt to mitigate race relations by leveling the economic playing field for all Americans, regardless of race, gender, lifestyle, creed, or religion.  We thought we had legislation in place to accomplish those ends only to realize that the laws did not change people’s behaviors, habits, and hearts.  Concomitant with the revolution, a white backlash was already plotting to rise up and erode, alter, and take back the gains of the civil rights revolution, setting blacks back to pre-civil rights times.  This description has been the pattern that has followed each civil rights revolution.  Black civil rights, liberties, and economic opportunities are permitted on the bases of tokens, while the majority of the collective group remains impoverished, disfranchised, and disempowered.  The police provide a system for keeping blacks in check and from rising up to threaten the status quo.  Thus, in a nutshell, the police, in both theory and practice, were never intended to protect and befriend blacks.  Therefore, the excessive force, antagonism, lawlessness, and physical conflicts by the police against blacks (resulting in the murdering of unarmed black people) are acceptable by many whites and are regarded as police “doing their job,” according to the tradition, purpose, and intent of the police force.

However, we are told and taught to believe that we are not the country of past centuries.  We have evolved and changed with the times.  The world we live in today is not the same world of past centuries.  We cannot go back and live in those worlds because they do not exist. Yet some of us choose regressive patterns of behavior in our relationships with others which create conflict because the times that permitted the regressive patterns of behavior have no place in today’s world. 

This is what Dorner recognized and tried to tell us in 2013 when he raised complaints against the LAPD.  What happened to Dorner was perhaps a harbinger to the times to come which are before us right now. Given this moment in time, we should go back and revisit how Dorner was betrayed for attempting to call our attention to a long-standing social problem which, if left unattended, will erupt into another civil rights revolution unlike any we have seen before. As martyrs do, Dorner was attempting to pull us into our better selves and root out that which made us/makes us lesser, such as historic, systemic racial discrimination, white supremacy, poverty, and inequality. [Micah Johnson, in Dallas, and Gavin Long in Baton Rouge, said or left pre-recorded messages that they taking matters into their hands to avenge the deaths of Black males by killing police officers].

It was too easy for us to ignore Dorner, demonize him, criminalize him, and murder him after having served his country and fellowmen in American-made wars he did not have to serve in but chose to do so because he believed he could make a difference for the better.  

Had we listened to him,then, perhaps the deaths of Trevon Martin, Jordan Davis, Jonathan Sanders, Mike Brown, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Micah Johnson, Gavin Long, and over a hundred of others, could have been prevented. But because we failed to seize proactive opportunities at that moment   in time, when we had a man like Dorner at the helm (he was thepolice who had broken rank with the“Brotherhood”!), too many young blacks subsequently have had their lives violated and even senselessly snuffed out, by criminal members of the police “Brotherhood.” 

Had we been vigilant and proactive then in 2013, as well as before, we could have avoided the reactionary postures we are now forced into by the tragic and costly aftermaths of spiraling police misconduct without consequences and/or accountability against black (and brown) people.

Perhaps, it is not too late now, going forward, to learn a lesson from hindsight, which is always 20/20.           

© 2016


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