What Do We Really Think?

For all that we have said about the police during this course and all the outrage I have seen consume my classmates, I wonder what lasting effects this course will have on each student’s day to day interactions with and beliefs about the police.  Although I believe this class has made certain students aware of the particular injustices police officers continue to inflict upon minority communities, I am not convinced that this class will significantly change how my classmates view their local police officers and the “criminals” who are unjustly arrested.

On this same note, after reading Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, many of my classmates seemed outraged by the action President Obama neglected to take as well as his aversion to taking firm stances against the police and against institutional racism.  Once again, as outraged as we were, I do not believe that any of us will see President Obama in the future and immediately think about how he failed to stand up for the Black community when they were suffering at the hands of the police.  Our current negative beliefs about President Obama in the context of this class will likely come to pass in the future, and we will revert to our previous adoration of him.

The reason I mention this is because it highlights a very interesting aspect of our youthful nature.  When people make impassioned arguments that seem remotely reasonable, us college students tend to buy them and maintain them as true.  However, we only maintain this truth at a superficial level.  Before this class, few, if any of us, would have asserted that President Obama was a failure in the realm of improving community-police relations.  Now when the former President is mentioned in class it is usually followed by a complaint about what he has failed to accomplish in this area.  We bought Taylor’s argument so easily without any pushback from alternative perspectives.  However, because we were so easily swept away by Taylor’s fiery condemnations which mainly appealed to our emotions, we do not hold these beliefs deeply; this is why we will eventually forget about Obama’s failures in this area and revert back to liking him as a President.  If we received a thorough assessment of President Obama’s record on policing—one with Taylor’s perspective and another with an equally passionate and eloquent defense of the former President—then we would have decided on the issue for ourselves and would have ultimately held those beliefs more strongly.    The same is true with the actions of the police.  If we read more material about the uniquely complex and dangerous situations the police face instead of only reading about the atrocities they commit, then we would have a more deeply-seated belief in whatever perspective we adopt.  I believe most of my classmates will ultimately not be affected by the arguments made in this course in the long run because they have only heard the radical and emotional perspective of Taylor and similar writers.  If we instead inspected the issue from all angles, then we would have a well-thought-out and well-developed opinion on the issues and an opinion that we would maintain into the future.

One thought on “What Do We Really Think?

  • April 24, 2017 at 6:00 pm

    Hey Payton,

    I think you raised an interesting point about the extent to which this course will shape our outlook on the police, Obama and racism in the long-term. I’d be interested to see whether your prediction comes true in the future. I, for one, though, know people who have taken similar courses on race and policing, which eventually influenced the choice of their major and their outlook on these issues. I think our anger will be more tempered as time goes by, but I don’t know that we will revert to our original attitudes; rather, I think there will be a change in the way we consider Obama’s presidency, even if his inaction on issues of interest to African-Americans doesn’t immediately spring to mind when we think about it.


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