The “Black Lives Matter” movement has rightfully called attention to the abuse black people have suffered at the hands of the police. The overwhelmingly disparate rate of violence against blacks (and all people of color) versus whites is alarming. Few white parents have had to sit their sons down and give them the standard “Don’t give the police any reason for an excuse to abuse you” that black parents are required to deliver. It’s no wonder that black communities are on edge at the presence of police.
Queer people and communities also have good reason to be uneasy around police. In recent times, police would round up LGBTQ+ people for the sport of it. Rowdy teens and adults would go “gay bashing” for the fun of it, always outnumbering their victims, and the police would rarely intervene or follow up. Periodic raids on gay clubs were routine. That is, until the uprising at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village in 1969 following (one more) police raid that led to the gay liberation movement. They resisted the police for two days and convinced the gay community that they could take their destiny into their own hands. And they have with great success.
Yet, with all the progress toward legal and social equality LGBTQs have enjoyed since then, the memories of police brutality linger. It’s not surprising then, that certain gay pride parade officials have banned police walking with them in uniform. It is considered bestowing upon the institution an honor it doesn’t deserve. They don’t want to give the impression that all is well. And, they naturally don’t trust them. Trust = Safety in the gay community. Lack of safety is born of distrust.
To make the point using an incident in my life, I was a pastor of an Open and Affirming (of gays) congregation, and a recognized Ally (the A in LGBTA). I attended local PFLAG meetings and got to know many in the gay community. After a couple of years, I began asking why some of the people who seemed spiritually minded never would attend my congregation. Their response was something like, “Oh, we know we are safe with you, but we can’t be sure of anyone else.” This is the issue with police departments that are filled with allies and others not so supportive.
All is not well. Yet, is it not time to seek rapprochement with those who genuinely seek a relationship? If the process is not begun, the realities of the past will linger and continue to fester. I know many policemen who have transitioned from being openly hostile to gays who have completely turned around. In part, this is due to the sensitivity training in many departments. It’s also due to getting to know the gay community better and realizing that there is no good reason for them to continue their hostility. I applaud the Sacramento LGBT Community Center officials who met with the Sacramento PD and began the process of a new beginning. Here’s their statement:
We had the opportunity to meet with the Chief of Police and a group of LGBTQ officers to discuss these issues [and] are mutually committed to more intentionally working together over time to build trust, understanding, and systems of support between the police department and the LGBTQ community.
This is a good start and worthy of support. How about in your community?