My family and I were out at a local Chipotle restaurant and I saw a European American police officer standing in line. I had the unction to hug a police officer last week while standing in line at Panera Bread. I questioned myself and his potential reaction. While I was questioning the impulse, he walked away. I watched him walk away and I was so disappointed with myself. I came home and told my husband about it.
So, when the opportunity presented itself again, I just looked at my husband and said, “I’m going to go over and hug him.” I handed our son to him, walked over to the officer and asked if I could. He said, “Yes.” Afterwards, I thanked him for his service, told him that I didn’t believe that all police officers are bad, that I loved him even. He said that it had been difficult given the circumstances these past few months. I shook my head in agreement and with that, we parted ways.
It felt good. Not the hug. I mean, he’s not a bad hugger but it wasn’t about the hug. It was about confronting fear, connecting and reconnecting, relating to race as the outsider.
Persons are still protesting and I have joined with them. I’m not carrying a sign. I’m hugging police officers.
On this past Sunday, I asked my congregation to pray for police officers, instructing them not to stereotype all police officers as bad. Persons slowly nodded their heads in agreement. The silence wasn’t awkward but thoughtful. After the service, a European American member came and hugged me. She was in tears.
Her son had recently completed training as a police officer and was having doubts about the decision to serve in light of the increased discussions on race and law enforcement. She thanked me for the prayer and the instruction.
Her son’s fear is shared. A recent article provided some police officers’ point of view regarding the Eric Garner case, pointing out that he was resisting arrest and that his health also contributed to his death. But, they also talked about the disrespect that other police officers not involved in the death of Eric Garner are suffering in light of the grand jury’s decision not to indict, feelings of betrayal by other high ranking officials and the demonization of all who wear the badge. These are tough words to hear but there is never one side of a story– no matter how old or familiar it is to us.
I did not assume as much when I decided to hug the police officer yesterday; in fact, I put the stories aside. I put my fears aside and embraced the possibility that it was an accident, that we could be friends, that we might be able to breathe again… one day.