Thursday, June 22, 2017

Tears of a Father

Scars. They travel with us through life as reminders of experiences, both wonderful and terrifying. Scars are forever things, and some people have more than most.

My father once told me of his family’s trip from Florida to his father’s new duty station in Washington State. He was a child, and I wasn’t even a twinkle in his eye. They drove the long miles in the family car. There were many stops over many days to refuel both themselves and their Buick.  At one particular stop, they decided to catch a bite to eat after filling up at a gas station.  My dad was young, and doesn’t quite remember where the stop was, but what he does remember, he remembers well. Everyone got out of the car after pulling into a restaurant’s parking lot, and my dad headed to the front door.  He didn’t know what the sign on the side meant, and continued skipping in.  It read, “No Blacks Allowed Through The Front.  Go Around Back.” He was stopped by my grandfather’s strong hand on his shoulder, and carefully directed around the building. My father, being a kid, did what kids do… “Dad?  The front door’s back there?”  My grandfather ignored him. “Dad, I don’t understand where we’re going.  Dad, why can’t we go in the front door?”

My grandfather stopped. It didn’t take my dad long to see the tears welling in his father’s eyes. And for the first of only two times in his life, my father saw his father cry.  My grandfather wept. He later told my dad he was overcome with shame. An overwhelming shame at having come back from fighting for America in the Korean war, and yet there he was, having to explain to his child why they weren’t deserving enough to walk through the front door.

And my father cried.  


[Mom & Dad.  I want to be like him when I grow up.]

When Dad graduated from high school, he knew the rule. “You either go to college, join the military, or get a job,” my grandfather always said.  Since he was dating the woman he would eventually marry and have a child with, Dad intended to be the man they both needed him to be.  He picked up the newspaper and began his quest to find that perfect job, ink staining his thumb and forefinger. After days of searching through the classified ads, he found it. This job would be his! Phone interviews went better than expected, and the company invited him down for a final interview, which was more of a formality, and to sign the papers making him a “valued member of their team.”

Dad dressed the part and made his way down to Miami Beach. They call it “walking on air” when you have that spring in your step. The confidence in knowing you’re doing the right thing, and with a little hard work, the effort will be rewarded.  Dad reached the third floor and walked up to the receptionist knowing he, the 18 year old king of his domain, would soon have the world by its tail.  “Hi, I’m David Sheppard and I’m here for the job we talked about,” my father said with his baritone confidence and easy smile.  After an extended pause, the woman said, “You look different than what you sound like on the phone.”

An Army recruiter watched my dad as he slowly descended the steps to the second floor.  “Well,” he said with a nod to my dad, “You look like someone just killed your favorite dog.”  With a little effort, my father was able to whisper, “They didn’t want me.”

“Son, Uncle Sam wants you.  He’ll never turn you away.”

Scars. They’re lasting impressions created in an instant, and they can change you. Affect you.

My father’s first duty station was in Berlin, Germany, the city in which I would eventually be born.  He’d just flown in and reported to the First Sergeant.  

First Sergeant - “Which side d’you want?”
Dad - “I’m not sure what you mean, First Sergeant.”
First Sergeant - “There’s a barracks for the white soldiers and one for the blacks.  Which Side do you want?”
Dad - “I’m tired, First Sergeant.  I just want somewhere to lay my head down.”

The First Sergeant directed my dad to his new bunk in the white barracks.  His roommate was a white Sergeant who, upon seeing my dad, curtly told him room inspections were every morning. The Sergeant then went to his wallet and pulled out a card, which he handed to my dad.  After a quick glance my father saw that it identified the owner as a clansman in good standing with the Ku Klux Klan.  The Sergeant said, “If the race riots happen, I’m coming for you.” He didn’t say another word to my dad for weeks.

Those several weeks went by when, out of the blue, the Sergeant asked my dad, “Why is it I only see you guys dating white women, and how is it that at the end of the night, you black fellas always walk out of the clubs with the best lookin ones?”
“Well,” Dad replied, “How many black women do you see around here?  Who’re we suppose to date?  You?  And let me ask you this.  When you go out to the clubs, what’s the first thing you do?”
“Order a drink,” the Sergeant replied.
“Exactly. And then more drinks after that. What woman wants to be with a drunk man who smells like alcohol?”  The Sergeant sat in contemplation.  “I tell you what,” my dad continued, “get dressed. You’re going to the club with me.  There’s only one rule, and that’s ‘No Alcohol’.”

The Sergeant did get dressed and off to the club they went.  The two had a good time.  They had a great time, actually.  The next morning Dad and the Sergeant were sitting quietly when the Sergeant slowly reached over for his wallet.  He pulled out his card and looked at my dad.  Then, very deliberately, the Sergeant ripped his KKK card into tiny little pieces.

[The first picture of my wife and I together]

Years ago, after the birth of our daughter, my wife and I decided to drive to Central Oregon for a few days. If a short, mini vacation is what you need, Central/Eastern Oregon won’t steer you wrong! Several times since we’d met, Shellie told me of her relatives in Eastern Oregon.  When she was young, they’d have family trips out that way and she’d spend magical days frolicking amongst the sagebrush. Shellie’s relatives adored her red poof of hair, and constantly lavished her with hugs and smooches. So, when Shellie asked if I’d mind her driving the hour or two to their house, I was delighted she’d get the chance even though I was stuck elsewhere.  She and our toddler, Clara, took off for an adventure within an adventure.

They drove and drove, finally reaching their destination. With butterflies in her stomach flying figure eights, Shellie walked to the door. She couldn’t contain her smile. How fun was it going to be to see these people she made so many memories with again!  After a few knocks on the door, it creaked open.

A number of hours later, the sun long set, Shellie pulled into the driveway of the house we were renting. She walked into the door and was oddly quiet. I scrunched my face into a quizzical expression and asked, “What’s the matter, hon?”  “They wouldn’t see me,” she said. “They wouldn’t let me in the house because my daughter is black.”  Shellie later told me the incident devastated her spirit beyond even her own comprehension.

Every member of my family bears the scars of racism.

[Big sister Clara with little brother Quincy]

When we first moved to Lake Oswego seven and a half years ago, my daughter attended Forest Hills Elementary School. Some might say the schools in Lake Oswego are equivalent to private schools, and some would argue they’re even better. I couldn’t agree more. Clara received an education in both academics and life.

Cinnamon Roll.

That’s the name some of the other students gave her because she wasn’t white. It’s not a scary or harsh word. Not at all. But it was their way of marking her as different. As an outsider. As “the other.” Clara came home several times, sobbing, after the kids in school singled her out and called her names for being black. I tried to downplay her “nickname” of cinnamon roll because I knew she’d be called much much worse as she got older.


Quincy, my youngest, got to go to his first sleep-away camp last year.  A week at the coast full of fishing, singing, campfires and fun! And as if the pot wasn’t already sweet enough, his cousin, Shellie’s sister’s son, was going too. Snips and snails, and puppy dogs tails, there was about to be a whole lot of shenanigans on the Oregon Coast!

One afternoon, as the wind whispered through the pines and dragonflies skimmed the nearby lake, the boys in their cabin were deep in conversation.  You know, the kind of deep conversations eight year olds have.  Quincy mentioned how he and his cousin are related.  One of the other boys wasn’t having any of it because Quincy was black, and his cousin was white.  “You guys can’t be related.  And besides, black people are weird.”

I can talk for a hundred hours, and write a hundred-thousand words, and still not convey the ache in my heart upon hearing Quincy tell me one of his most memorable experiences of camp was being told, “Besides, black people are weird.”

Race is a fact of life in my household. Racism has affected our pasts, it's affecting our present, and it will most definitely shape our futures. It's not an idea we focus on, or a state of mind we wallow in. Race is, however, an idea thrust upon us. Sometimes daily. I wish it weren't. I crave the luxury of living a life where the color of our skin is just... a color. Ah, what a luxury that would be. Many people actually enjoy such luxury. Some might even call it a privilege...

A little less than a week ago, I wrote about an unpleasant interaction I had with a gentleman in Lake Oswego. I described it in a blog post which I called, “We Found Our Heart In Lake Oswego.”  You can read it [here] if you’d like. I thought to myself, “People really seem to be into this piece. I bet a couple hundred people might read it. What a great chance to spur a deep, heartfelt conversation.” It’s now been viewed more than 25,000 times. The community is talking about how they, as individuals, view and treat others. They’re discussing ideas such as fairness, and equity, and brainstorming ways to, as a society, evolve forward.

[Quincy, Clara, me and my father enjoying the Oregon Coast]

I’ve also had many contemplative conversations this past week. One of the more meaningful ones was with a coworker I respect on many different levels. I especially appreciated his candor as we discussed the post. He described to me having been born in the Midwest and spending the majority of his adult life in Portland. He’s several years older than I am, but told me he’d just recently, for the first time, traveled east of the Rockies. In describing his experience on the East Coast, he said, “There were black people working everywhere! They were in every store you went in. Here in Portland I can go to the Starbucks and not see a black person.  I can walk down the street and go to the grocery store, and never see a single black person!  Oregon is so different than it was there.”

We talked for quite a while, and the conversation drifted to what’s been reported in the media. “You hear about racist this and racism that, but can it really that bad?” my coworker asked. He continued, “I mean, if you believe the media, we’re surrounded by racism, but I don’t see it. I’ve been around for a long time, and I’m just not seeing that stuff.”

And there you have it… My coworker unwittingly stumbled on my definition of "White Privilege." I don’t view white privilege as some sort of club with a secret handshake that gets you better jobs, bigger houses or a seat at the big boy’s table, although it might… To me, white privilege is being able to go through life without thinking twice that your race in any way affects the direction of your path forward. It doesn't exclude one from working this job, or living in that neighborhood. White privilege is being able to question whether racism really is that big of a problem, because it’s not happening to you.

White privilege is never being a father who cried because his father was denied a job, or because your wife was shunned by her own flesh and blood. It’s never having an inexpressible ache in your heart for a sobbing daughter, or son who’s been told “black people are weird.”

If you’ve read this far, you now know a lot of personal things about my life experiences. You’ve been able to glimpse, if just briefly, the living, breathing monster of racism as it affects life, love, and growth of the human spirit. Keep the conversation going.

My dad once met a man who walked up to him, and with a defiant, angry stance declared, “I hate all black people.”
“Wow!” my father replied.  “That must have taken a really long time!”
“What d’ya mean?” the man questioned.
“Well, you said you hate all black people.  It must have taken a long time to meet them all.  How many have you met?”
“You’re the first one,” was the man’s reply.

Remember that receptionist who told my father he looked differently than he sounded on the phone? His reply to her... “That’s what education does for you.”

Sunday, June 11, 2017

We Found Our Heart In Lake Oswego

About this time last week, it was toasty Sunday afternoon, I had a life changing experience. One of those things you find your mind drifting to, of its own accord, during those silent and still times, eliciting thoughts of outrage, bewilderment… sadness.  It’s amazing how tiny little things, which first start as ripples, can become powerful waves.

Shellie, my lovely bride of 17 years, needed to be dropped off at Lake Oswego’s Millennium Park.  For any who aren’t familiar with Lake Oswego, it’s a small city just south of Portland, Oregon, and has become known as one of Portland’s more affluent suburbs. Most cities have nicknames.  Some rhyme.  Some don’t.  Not many words rhyme with Lake Oswego, but it has had its own special nickname for decades.  A nickname which often left Shellie and me snickering whenever we heard it: Lake No Negro.  We were happy to help make the nickname obsolete.

[Wedding pictures taken in Lake Oswego’s Millennium Park 17 years ago]

Shellie’s parent’s, David is a retired Army Colonel and Linda a retired Labor and Delivery Nurse, move to Lake O was 15 years prior to ours.  Shellie and I were married in Dave’s and Linda’s front yard.  There was a permit to shut down roads, and lights were strung between trees.  When nighttime fell, the twinkling little bulbs reminded me of running through the fields in Georgia chasing fireflies.  Hours before the wedding, the wedding party was graced with amazing weather for a photoshoot at Millennium Park.  There’s little doubt Lake Oswego is a special place.  For Shellie and I, it’s been almost magical.

[And there was dancing in the streets]

Shellie’s father is a wonderful man, and has become one of my closest friends.  We often choose a day on the weekend to go out for breakfast, and to talk.  We sit and chat for hours about this or that, and everything else.  I can’t recall what led us to that particular topic on that particular day, but one morning Dave mentioned how Oregon use to be a “sunset” state.  Now let’s have a minute of candor here… can we all agree Oregon should more appropriately be called a “drizzle” state?  Dave enlightened me.  “Oregon remained pretty much white after it was founded.  And it use to be ‘Boy, don’t let your ass be found in this state/town when the sun goes down.’ If you weren’t white, you’d best be elsewhere before the sun set.  My father once pulled down one of those signs out near Bend.”

But I digress.  Oregon, and Lake Oswego, have a history that is not unique to them, and it’s in the past.  Let’s leave it there.  As long as we use history as a valuable learning tool, there’s no need for us to relive our mistakes.  So, getting back to the story, I was motoring along when a white BMW with dark tinted windows zoomed in behind me.  The driver was really close, two feet or so. I couldn’t even see their headlights.  I’m not a slow driver who generally needs motivation to go a little faster.  I’m more of a “lead foot” type of guy.  The driver, for reasons known only to him or her, was being reckless, and very likely to be the cause of serious injury should I have had to brake suddenly.  I tapped my brakes.  The BMW didn’t relent.  I signaled to make a turn, and so did the Beemer.  As I made my turn, it zoomed off the way we had been going.

Bad driving, I can deal with.  Nobody’s perfect.  Aggressive drivers, I can understand. Sometimes taking any guesswork out of the equation makes for a better driver.  I can even overlook the jerk.  Because you know what?  We all have bad days and sometimes it overflows onto others.  It’s not right, but life happens.  There is something, however, I can never excuse or find a reason to look past, and that’s being a bully.  The driver of that BMW tried to what… strike fear in me by pretending to follow me?  And then what?  It was at that split second I decided - You’re trying to be a bully, and that’s not ok.

I quickly turned the car around and within a few seconds saw where the white Beemer was headed (I may have had some experience tailing people).  The BMW drove into a nearby parking lot and parked.  I pulled into a spot three or four spaces away.  I got out just as Mr. Man did.  Then his two kids got out too.  They looked to be approximately the same age as my rugrats.  We both had sons around 9 years old, and daughters in their mid teens.  I still planned on talking with him, but would keep the interaction as tame as possible. As a reminder to myself to stay calm, i stood in the open doorway of my car, gripping above the door’s window.  This is a sampling of the conversation we had…

Me: Hey man, that’s not ok.
Mr Man: You didn’t have to tap your brakes, dawg.
Me: Look, someone’s gonna get hurt when you get that close. And with your kids in the car?
Mr Man: You live around here?
Me: You bet I do.
Mr Man: You don’t look like it...
Me: What’s that suppose to mean?
Mr Man: What do you think it means… Look in the mirror.
Mr: Oh really…
Mr Man: Nigger.
Me: Oh yeah. That’s great. In front of your kids and everything. (Fortunately his kids weren’t in earshot) Mr Man got within an inch of my face several times with me not walking towards him.
Mr Man: Where did you go to school?
Me: Where do you think? (I was wearing my Stanford sweatpants and a Stanford shirt)
Mr Man: Well you don’t look educated.

[Mr. Man. I’ll keep his real name to myself]

As we talked, Mr. Man decided he needed to position himself within a few inches of me, standing right in my face.  Kind of like when he was driving.  A bully to the core, and much more.  I felt sorry for his kids, and sorry for his wife.  I’d known Mr. Man for only a few minutes and he was trying to throw his weight around.  Speaking of weight, Mr. Man was quite a bit bigger than me. Well, he was the bigger man physically… As he stood over me a lot of things ran through my head, the least of which wasn’t wondering if I would be forced to protect myself.  He was a big guy so I’d have to hit him quick and hard.  The second he touched me I planned to jab my fist straight into his throat.  Mr. Man stood in my face momentarily, then walked away.  He did so again several minutes later, but again quickly backed off after telling me I smelled.

I’ve been called many things in life. Before being called a husband, and then “Dad,” I was a graduate of Stanford University.  When I worked as a Psychological Operations Specialist in the US Army, I was a soldier.  More recently I was an Officer, and now I’m Detective Sheppard.  I’ve been called Nigger a lot too.  Happens.  I wasn’t overly affected by Mr. Man calling me that word.  Nigger.  It was more how he said it.  You see, the fine people who have imbued me with this title in the past were high on meth or cocaine.  Or they were slurring their words, barely able to get it out because that 12th beer tasted as great as the first.  Some people spoke in a deep, guttural voice which belied their rage perfectly.  But not Mr. Man.

Mr. Man was smirking as he spoke.  “Nigger.”  Mr. Man didn’t yell, or raise his voice really. He just said it as he smiled, letting it roll down his nose at me.  “Nigger.”  Such an ugly word.  You don’t look like you live here… Nigger.  It comforts me to know Oregon’s “sunset” status is only a memory.  Right?  These sorts of repugnant incidents happen to other people in other places..if your skin isn’t brown.  For me, I’ve been there, done that and got the t-shirt.  It’s happened before and will again.

Which brings us full-circle back to the beginning of our story.  It was a life changing experience, but not for me.  That word has worn deep grooves down the canal of my ears. I was inspired, however, to post the conversation on social media.  It didn’t go viral or anything, but Lake Oswego isn’t a big place.  Shellie has been on our school’s PTO, and even served as its president.  She ran the school’s rummage sale for a number of years as well.  People know her, and as an extension of her, me.  Shellie knows Mr. Man’s kids. She sees them every day.  And she really likes Mr. Man’s ex-wife.  Shellie shared the conversation, and word got around.  Our friends, relatives, coworkers and acquaintances used words like shocked, shameful, disgusting and the like.  One even made the statement that the words they used were cheap, and called them to action.  Maybe there’s hope for my dream of Lake Oswego.  

Can this be a tiny little thing, which starts as a ripple? I hope people's words turn into action. And I hope those actions become a powerful wave.

Maybe one day I can look, and be treated, like someone who belongs.

NOTE: I somehow forgot to add this to my original ramblings, but the day before my conversation with Mr. Man, my 14 year old daughter asked me for advice. One of her acquaintances posted a meme of a clansmen in full garb. My daughter was disturbed and confused. The context and substance of the meme are too convoluted to explore here, but it led to a thoughtful discussion on how best to react when faced with unsavory people or actions.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Case Against A New War in Iraq
How short is your memory?

Some of us, as American citizens, have either an amazingly short memory, or a lust for bloodshed rivaling the most barbaric societies.  Pretty strong statement?  I agree.  Yet those were my exact thoughts after seeing a simple picture being posted by a number of my friends.  A “meme”.  It goes something like this: <Insert picture of past republican president> “If I were still president, ISIS would be WASWAS”.

Simple, right?  If a strong, republican president were in office, this terrorist organization would have already been snuffed out and the world would be safe for all.  Send enough troops, shed some blood, and done.

Hm.  Interesting.  When I look back on the war which preceded the rise of this particular sectarian group, I don’t see something as quick, simple and effective as “ISIS would be WASWAS”.  I remember the decade after 9/11 in which we were fighting in Iraq.  The cost was high.  Economically, emotionally and in lives… The cost was high.  Some people, possibly even a lot, would argue the results didn’t come anywhere close to justifying this nation’s losses.

I remember waiting in Balad, Iraq, for my ride home.  It was a dusty, yet muddy shithole with nothing but bad memories for me.  I’m sure not everyone had a terrible time there, but when I finally got the green light to leave the sandbox, only to arrive in Balad to discover my plane was grounded with no eta on parts… bad memories.  So close to going home.  So close to seeing my wife and infant daughter, yet a world away.  Every day I’d check in, but for a week the answer was the same.  I’d head back to the sweltering tent to pass another day, artillery pounding in the distance.  That’s a whole lot better than artillery pounding on me, by far.  For that, I’m grateful.

I, of course, did eventually find a flight home.  My little daughter was there, waiting.  When she saw me she spat and refused to look at me.  Who knew children so young could have such a visceral, powerful reaction to being left by mom or dad.  But I’ll agree with you - “War is Hell” and “Freedom isn’t Free”.  Sacrifices must be made.  Several years after I returned home I heard more news from Balad.  A friend who I dated briefly in high school lost her brother there after he sustained wounds from an improvised explosive device.

For all of you posting “ISIS would be WASWAS”, maybe you remember the war differently than I do.  I don’t recall things being that simple, or the cost being as cheap as hitting “like” on facebook.  I remember watching the news every day to see how many US servicemen and women were killed by an IED, or injured in a mortar attack.

2003 - 486 American military killed in Iraq.
2004 - 849 American military killed in Iraq.
2005 - 846 American military killed in Iraq.
2007 - 823 American military killed in Iraq.
2008 - 314 American military killed in Iraq.
2009 to 2014 - 269 American military killed in Iraq.

32,000 injured.

Don’t you remember?

I remember a tenuous, at best, stability paved in the blood of the sons, daughters, mothers, fathers and children of this country.  A list of names with seemingly no end, as long as we stayed there.  A list of names, more than names, added to the wall of my remembrance… daily.  

Don’t you remember?

I can hear some responses now, spat out in a gruff voice filled with ire, “I remember 9/11!”  Don’t get me wrong.  I remember that too, and I volunteered to go and fight as quickly as the next person.  My blood boiled and all I saw was red!  Being the intelligent person I know you are, and knowing what you know now, I find it hard to believe you can defend the connection between the government of Saddam Hussein and 9/11.  But that’s a debate for another time.

How many of America’s sons and daughters are you willing to sacrifice to make ISIS a WASWAS?  Better yet, what guarantee can you make that once this high price is paid, the next WASWAS won’t come into existence?

To intelligently answer that question you’ll have to delve into your knowledge of the region and some of its religious sects.  Quick, without looking it up on the internet, who are the Sunnis?  Who are the Shia?  Why is there such animosity between the extremes of each?  What is ISIS?  Have there ever been similar sectarian groups in the region with similar sectarian goals?  I’m no scholar of the middle east or of the small number of extremists within the muslim faith, but what I do know is there has been a rift in the religion which has been seized upon by radical factions of each side, and this was true centuries before the United States existed.

It hasn’t worked in a thousand years, but maybe this time, by killing as many “extremists” as we can, and with the loss of enough American life, we can bridge this rift created so long ago.  My guess is we might be able to neutralize enough of the leaders to cause the rest to scatter, for a short time.  Nothing more.

NOTE:  I was in the Army.  My father is retired Army, as was his father before him.  I met my wife in the Army, and her father is a retired Colonel.  I’m in no way belittling the plight of the American soldier.  On the contrary!  Their lives are too precious to throw at a problem we have yet to even clearly define.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Thoughts Regarding Racism and the Police
I’d like to share with you the story of my best friend, who is a police officer.  One sunny afternoon several kids reported seeing a strange, creepy van circling the blocks watching them as they walked home from school.  Being both a law enforcement officer and parent, the next day my best friend asked his supervisor if he could either adjust his shift or stay late for just one hour in order to patrol the area as children were dismissed.  His supervisor gave the "ok".
My best friend asked other officers to help patrol the area in search of the creepy guy in the creepy van, and soon there were sightings.  They eventually found the creepy van parked in front of a public building on the school’s campus, and went inside to look for him.  My best friend, knowing that sometimes people who don’t want to be found will go in one direction but then circle back to their cars, thought it would be prudent to wait at the creepy van just in case.
A word about the creepy man… It was later determined he was wanted in connection with several bank robberies.  The man also abducted a woman several months earlier.  Fortunately she was able to jump from his van as he drove away.  She escaped with her life but was severely injured.  Creepy man was getting creepier.
My best friend looked around and saw the man walking near his van, and asked him to stop.  Creepy man didn’t listen at first.  He kept walking, looking to the left and right.  Looking for the best route of escape.  My best friend started catching up with the man, so he finally did stop, hands buried deep in his coat pockets.  “Let me see your hands!” my best friend yelled.  The man did eventually show his hands.  He brought his right hand up lightning fast, gripping a semiautomatic handgun.  BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM!  Creepy man shot four times.  Creepy man shot my best friend.
I hear a lot of statistics thrown around by people wanting to prove a point concerning police shootings and police brutality, but statistics only tell a tiny fraction of the story.  Police officers are a cross section of the American population.  With nearly 600,000 who are members of the law-enforcement community, you’re bound to have a number slip through who shouldn’t work in the profession.  And I’ll even concede there could be local or systemic issues that could at most use reform, at minimum be discussed.  Understanding is needed on both sides.  Yet when you deride the police, you’re denigrating me, my best friend, and people who will run into a collapsing building to save your life.  A person they’ve never met.  Calling police (of which I am one) corrupt, brutish and racist is no different than calling black people (of which I am one) lazy, violent thugs.  I won’t stand for either, and neither should you.
Although usually in jest, my father would constantly repeat two sayings to describe the actions of people: “You mess with the bull, you get the horns” and “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time”.  To me, they’re about natural consequences and personal responsibility.  At this exact moment in time, I could point to people on both sides of the debate of Police Brutality and Institutional Racism who could benefit from a little contemplation on those two sayings.
An epilogue concerning my best friend and the creepy man.  My best friend, bleeding and scared, shot a few bullets of his own, and creepy man won’t be stalking our children anymore.  The medical examiner found several lengths of binding rope in the man’s deep pockets, and even more chilling items in creepy van.  Go ahead, lump my best friend in with the statistics on police shootings and excessive use of force, but in my book, he’s a hero.  I’m lucky to be able to tell him that whenever we talk.
“How can your story be about racism when you don’t even mention race?”  That’s a valid question.  I think it’s also the answer.  You see, my best friend, like the vast majority (not all, mind you) of law enforcement officers was contacting this person because a law was broken, or about to be broken.  He didn’t randomly insert himself into a contrived situation.  Cops generally don’t have time for that.  They’re too busy going from one 911 call to the next.
Let’s you and I make a deal.  As you question every action of a police officer asked to diagnose and control volatile situations the instant they arise, ask these questions before judging them so harshly: Did the suspect commit a crime?  Did the suspect comply with the officers’ request, or take off running?  Did the suspect allow him/herself to be arrested, or was the fight on?  
Without even broaching the actions of the officer, is there even the slightest possibility that a person’s actions when approached by the police might affect how their interaction goes?  I don’t know why, but we've started losing the ability to ask or answer these hard questions, instead going the easy route of putting 100% of the onus on the officer 100% of the time.
I know what you’re thinking... “We expect law enforcement to act in a way that leaves citizens with their dignity and respect intact!”  I expect cops to act like decent human beings too, but it goes both ways...