Sometimes I have a hard time shaking nagging feelings. I remember so clearly when Christopher Dorner was in the news and how quickly the story was forgotten. It has been hard for me to forget because there was so much injustice on so many levels yet a major aspect was virtually ignored. Because the part that was ignored represents a dangerous example of institutional racism I felt a need to revisit the story.
During the manhunt for Christopher Dorner, his photograph was shown over and over on virtually every news program I watched. His smile beamed, his face was radiant and it looked as if he had a zest for life. You can’t tell a book by its cover, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that at some point this man had a clear sense of his future. What could have caused him to snap? I was not looking for justification for what he did, as there is none. I simply needed to understand what happened to him or what he felt happened to him.I read parts of his manifesto. Because of his egregious actions it was hard to read it without a bit of skepticism, even if some of the claims about racism rang oh so true. Being fired unjustly, having to listen to the term nigger used in his workplace, having to “over” prove himself, and having his dignity assaulted were things I have heard many times over the years. But could I trust the words of someone who had lost it to the point of going on a search-and-destroy mission?
Apparently Christopher Dorner’s actions moved at least three other current and former Black LAPD officers to share their stories. All of them urged Dorner to stop the violence and all of them could relate to his racial experiences while working at the LAPD. Joe Jones first wanted to assure the reader that he would not surface after 16 years to tell lies and that he is still suffering from PTSD because of his debilitating experiences serving the LAPD. He stated the following: “The pain forces me to speak as I have yet to shake the ill's of my experience as an LAPD Officer… . To preface my story I will say this: Just like former Officer Christopher Dorner I used to smile a lot. I loved everyone. I was voted friendliest senior of my Sr. class in high school. I always believed in the system and never got into any trouble. … I had my Civil Rights violated on several occasions. I was falsely arrested at gunpoint … and was conspired against by both LAPD and the Sheriff when my civil case went to trial. I was falsely accused on more than one occasion and simply placed in a position that the trust was so compromised that I could no longer wear the uniform. … The disbelief that people could conspire and cause you to lose something you loved so dearly was still there. I lost my career, I lost my family, I lost my dignity, I lost my trust.” (Joe Jones Manifesto: Former LAPD Cop Says He Had Similar Experiences As Alleged Cop Killer, Chris Dorner, Huff Post,2/12/2013, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/12/joe-jones-manifesto-christopher-dorner_n_2670513.html#comments)
The following are the words of a reporter who interviewed Brian Bently, a second LAPD officer. “Sadly he recalls the experience of three of his fellow officers who also had manifestos similar to Christopher Dorner’s, two black officers and one white female officer, who – instead of acting on their manifestos – committed suicide.” (Ex-LA Cop Brian Bentley on Dorner Manifesto: ‘Not Only do I Believe it, but I Lived it’. Electronic Urban report, 2/12/2013, http://www.eurweb.com/2013/02/ex-la-cop-brian-bentley-on-dorner-manifesto-not-only-do-i-believe-it-but-i-lived-it/)
A third officer, Wayne Guillary, who currently works at the LAPD and has for over 30 years, stated the following: “I had witnessed and personally experienced within the organization acts of blatant discrimination. Its affect left its victims losing hope; their faces were streaming with tears of despair and their voices crying out screams of desperation.” (An African-American LAPD Sergeant Appeals to Christopher Dorner, The Hutchinson report news, 2/11/2013, http://thehutchinsonreportnews.com/profiles/blogs/an-frican-american-lapd-sergeant-appeals-to-christopher-dorner)
I am not writing this to vilify the LAPD. I have an immediate and urgent concern. How can we, as Black people, most effectively deal with the indignities generated by racism, blatant and otherwise, without resorting to violence or becoming demoralized?
It is too much to “humanly” deal with in ways that are healthy and sustainable! When I truly realized that, I began to study the lives of those role models of mine who I felt most effectively faced hate, hostility and racism - icons I call the Five M’s: Martin, Malcolm, (Nelson) Mandela, Muhammad (Ali), Mahatma (Gandhi). They all had one thing in common. They tapped their spirituality; they drew on that power that was greater than themselves to cope, to transform and ultimately to transcend. It is what our forebears drew on; it is the strength of our heritage and it is what we must draw on. It was those five icons’ ability to do this that turned their victimization into a transformative power for change. They changed themselves, and they changed the very conditions that created their victimization in the first place.
Most importantly we have to be there for each other with that same transformative spirit, with that strength, with that perspective. We can’t let the Joes, Brians, or Waynes suffer alone nor can we simply commiserate or fuel their rage. We must accompany them and each other in learning to draw on a deeper power. This is not an easy path. We can’t do it alone. We have to do it with, beside, and for each other. No more Christopher Dorners.