Hear ye! Hear ye! Here are the Official Rules and Reminders for Discussing Incidents where Police Kill Unarmed People:
- We are all operating with incomplete information. This is difficult and frustrating, because we’re eager to reach conclusions, but for the most part we have insufficient information for such conclusions.
- What a person does at certain moments is not the sum total of who they are. Whether discussing suspects or police officers, we should resist the temptation to demonize, angelify, and oversimplify.
- As delineated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, every person is “entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law”. Every person is also “presumed innocent until proved guilty”.
- We all have a responsibility to speak honestly and listen carefully, to respond with more questions than accusations. The last thing we want is for dialogue to freeze under the weight of suspicion and fear.
- Everyone has the right to be wrong, provided the person is willing to listen in order to be corrected (and owns the error). Those who are correct shall refrain from imposing guilt trips or ridicule against those who err, once the mistake is clarified.
- Individual incidents must be judged on the specifics of their own events, but social patterns shall not be ignored. In his memoir “Jarhead”, Anthony Swafford writes: “Every war is different. Every war is the same.” This is true also about incidents where police officers kill unarmed people. (Elements of social identity like gender, race, class, and sexuality rarely surface in the 21st century through overt, explicit hostility. This makes them especially difficult to discuss.)
- Despite the differences in our political perspectives, ideological orientations, personal circumstances, ethnic backgrounds, religious affiliations, and levels of formal education, we are all people whose lives are precious and who deserve respect.
- As Radio Raheem says in “Do The Right Thing”: “Hate [is] KO’d by Love.”