Westfield High School students have been under attack for this art project depicting scenes of police brutality. Police officers from around the United States took to the Facebook of Westfield HS, demanding that children be punished and school officials be fired.
The kids at Westfield picked their own topics. They narrowed it down and finally settled on police brutality. And despite criticism from police officers that the art project is “one-sided,” the students were not directed to portray one side of the debate over the next.
Let me digress for a moment. There is no legitimate “other side” to the police brutality debate. Police brutality is always wrong. It’s wrong in the context of the radical, the reformer, and even in the rhetoric (if not actions) of the law-abiding right. The only persons who utilize and justify police brutality are supporters of totalitarianism, in which case we’re talking about the police actions of law enforcement bodies such as the Stasi or Gestapo. (Or the NYPD and LAPD.) These individuals, these apologists for brutality, have no side. They have no valid position to debate, nor to depict.
Here’s what Laurie Maloney, a retired cop from Westfield, said:
“It really incensed me that this was so one-sided,” she told NJ Advance Media. “I’m all for the First Amendment, believe me. I’m not defending any police officers who are bad, but you can’t lump 900,000 people that work for law enforcement in the same category. What’s even more frightening is they brought grammar school children through this show. When I was young, we were told the police were good and if you had problem to go to the police. Showing these pictures to kids could cause them to be afraid of police, and I think that’s wrong.”
People who say “I am all for the First Amendment,” and then qualify it with an excuse for censorship, can’t be said to be for the First Amendment. In fact, scratch that. It isn’t a First Amendment issue. If the First Amendment didn’t exist, this art project would be justified nonetheless. It would be justified based on its message of truth, legal or illegal.
As far as the one million police officers (and the fact that Americans have one million police officers – all paid for by the actual work of American taxpayers – says something in and of itself), yes, they are all bad. They’re bad, because they have failed to check the multitude of police officers directly responsible for brutality. Brutality has only been possible because those police officers have turned their heads, or covered up, for the ones directly committing acts of brutality. Moreover, they’re bad because almost all laws are bad laws – they’re responsible as individuals for enforcing those laws.
Maloney said that it’s wrong to teach the young children, the grammar school kids, to be afraid of the police. I say this is exactly what we need to teach them. It’s better they learn now, so they don’t end up the victims of police.
Then again, those kids already have opinions about the police. Young children don’t experience the same forms of pro-police indoctrination they used to. Too many people have been arrested, too many people have been imprisoned, for it to work. Many of those young kids will have family members who have been victims. If not family, family of friends. And if not that, they will be exposed to an increasingly-aware public that no longer hesitates to criticize law enforcement. The days of propagandizing the youth in favor of police are coming to a close.
Don’t forget – it was the kids themselves who chose the topic of police brutality. And it was those kids who condemned it. They’re the future, as the saying goes. The future doesn’t have the same tolerance, the same willful blindness to brutality, that our generations did. These children are not going to tolerate what we’ve tolerated.
And maybe that is really what the police are afraid of.