*It may be difficult to hear because of the rage many of us are experiencing as we find ourselves living in the most racially-charged, divisive era since legalized slavery; but there may actually be police officers of Caucasian descent out there who want to change things, just don’t know how.
Hear me out.
You may have heard about the essay a brother named Brian Crooks wrote and posted on Facebook. Crooks says he’s been using his Facebook page to write about incidents of injustice on Black people by police since 2006. His posts were inspired by a man named Sean Bell. You may recall Bell, a Black man, was killed in Queens, New York in 2006, after police fired 50 rounds at a car near a strip club. His friends, who had taken him out on the night before his wedding, were luckier. They were only wounded.
I remember Mr. Bell’s story well. How I reeled in horror wondering why these muh-fuh’s thought it necessary to FIRE 50 SHOTS into a car at all. It sounded like a scene from Bonnie & Clyde!
Crooks’ Facebook post talks about his growing up in Naperville, a town with very few Blacks and attending Neuqua High. He claims he didn’t necessarily set out to write such a long soliloquy (my word) on race though and seems more surprised than anyone that it has hit such a nerve and attracted so much attention.
“I really thought only 10 to 15 people at most would read it,” Crouch said, after learning his post had gone viral. He apparently knows how short peoples’ attention span on the Internet is, and admits that this short attention span mirrors his own reality.
But after uploading his 4,747-word post on July 9, it was shared 300 times the first day and the numbers only grew throughout the week, by Thursday, more than 10,000 shares had taken place. The media went wild; sharing excerpts and stories in publications such as USA Today, the Des Moines Register, the Iowa City Press Citizen, the Naperville Sun.
Apparently, Chief Robert Marshall caught wind of it and found it hard to just go to another page. He wanted to talk to the author. So he placed the call.
You still with me?
“I wanted to hear more about his experience, really learn what it’s like to grow up a black person in Naperville,” Marshall said. “As soon as he comes to town we’ll go out to coffee. We have to have conversation and dialog with the minority communities to really understand.”
Chief Marshall said when he called Crooks they talked about the author’s experiences in Project Snowball, an annual weekend retreat between local students and law enforcement. But he says he is saving the in-depth discussion for their coffee appointment.
“It was a very short conversation as I value in-person conversation the most,” the police chief admitted.
City leaders even reacted to Crooks’ essay. And needless to say, those reactions were mixed.
“At some times my heart just broke for him, as it would for any kid that is picked on, singled out or left feeling as an outsider. I was struck by the comments about how few black authority figures he had,” said councilwoman Rebecca Boyd-Obarski. “I am hopeful that Naperville has become more diverse since then, more accepting of differences and more open to learning about differences.”
Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico said his kids attended Neuqua High at the same time as Crooks, and remembered how few black students were enrolled then. He also recalled meeting Crooks’ parents when he was knocking on doors, campaigning for mayor.
“He told me about life in Naperville 15, 20, 25, 30 years ago and the number of times he’d get pulled over driving home late,” Chirico said. He hopes the younger Crooks will consider helping Naperville police with sensitivity and other training in interacting with minority groups.
“We’re working hard on that, and I think Brian, if he’s willing, could really help us,” Chirico said.
RELATED: Kansas Black Lives Matter decided to approach the need for change in this way.
Read: Crooks Facebook post