Over the past few years, there has been an increase in the number aggressive policing incidents against people of color in this country. Several high profile incidents across the country have been depicted by the national media. Most of these incidents have been extremely graphic and difficult to watch, and ultimately resulting in seemingly unwarranted uses of force. Most of these incidents have involved people of color, both men and women. Thus, one can not help but postulate what is the root cause of these unnecessary acts of violence.
Given that many of these incidents have involved white officers and people of color, there appears to be some element related to ethnicity that needs to be critically examined. This topic makes a lot of people extremely uncomfortable for a number of reasons. For instance, I believe that too many people in believe that race is no longer an issue in this country mainly because we have an African-American president. However, that notion ranks up there with “some of my best friends are black” in terms of being utterly ridiculous.
Often times when race or ethnicity is brought up, it is often described as someone playing the race card. Thus, the issue is usually summarily dismissed at that point. However, if discussing the impact of race as it relates to police aggression is playing the race card, paraphrasing an excerpt from Hillary Clinton’s democratic nomination speech, deal me in.
During the 2015 annual conference, ACA hosted a session entitled “Town Hall Meeting on African American Males, The Police and Counselors” facilitated by Dr. Shon Smith. Elena Lee has discussed this topic on her ACA blog, most recently in May 2015. At that time, she questioned ACA’s lack of a substantive response given their adherence and commitment to diversity and social justice per the ACA Code of Ethics. The title of her blog was “When will we respond?” My question would be how can we not respond?
We (ACA) did not waste any time responding to Tennessee HB 1840/SB 1556, and I fully support that decision. AMCD, ALGBTIC, and CSJ also issued a joint statement against the bill which I also support. However, I am still waiting on the statement from ACA and joint statement from other divisions repudiating these incidents of violence complete with recommendations and strategies to address these issues as counselors.
David Staten a Professor of Rehabilitation Counselor Education at South Carolina State University. He also co-owns a counseling practice, MERGE Counseling and Coaching, L.L.C The website is www.merge378.com