The Overseer, The Officer-What History Has Taught Us


Repetitive is history, although it is often analyzed and dissected to the smallest molecular pebble. Maybe it is in our makeup to follow another’s plight plan, even while attempting to try to forge our own trails along the chronology of our very existence. Even with calculated steps, we can manage to find ourselves treading over the same soiled steps of another man, hoping that our new footprints can supplant that of our predecessors. In lieu of our current societal issues, I found increased interest when delving into this premise as it relates to police officers and the unrest inside urban cities due to controversial arrest tactics and the purported execution of detainees. Without question, there is a fracture in the urban community/police department relationship that has garnered the collective attention and opinions of the world at large. Whether or not there is a solution remains to be seen, however this issues is more systemic than one would think, as the modern-day police officers carry the badge, burden and sometimes mentality to that of their predecessors. Back then their predecessors were referred to as the “overseers” and the “urban community” they police was known as, the slave plantation. Let’s delve into this a bit deeper.

We can always psychoanalyze each and every dynamic under the collective sky; however some things are exactly what they are at its core root. In the case of controversial urban policing tactics, it’s an even more simplistic equation. Most of those communities are made up of minorities; the men and women who police those communities are more than likely: A) not from that community B) stand a greater chance of perhaps not having the same hue of skin C) have not experienced a vast mosaic of diverse cultures (a.k.a. culture shock) D) rely on training methods when trying to communicate, evaluate and relate with citizens of that community. Now let us concentrate on the area I determined as “D”.

I don’t know the intricate details of a police training manual nor do I know the strategic concepts instituted during academy training. In fact I would love to hear from police officers what that said procedure is. But here is what I do know as it relates to the job force. No matter how much training you have received and how much literature you are given to absorb, all of it pretty much goes out the window once life happens. We all tend to revert back to our instincts, our preconceptions and our methods of survival when confronted with panic and fear. We are not robots, we are animals and every animal adapts according to their perceived environment. Unlike the Chameleon, we do not possess the ability to blend into the background effortlessly. By the time we have reached adulthood we no longer have the open-mindedness of a child that would allow us to not have prejudice. We can all claim to be Christ-like in our approach, but I doubt that there are few saintly people who when seeing anyone who they deem menacing would not have anxiety, hesitation and outright fear. We can reverse that same A-B-C-D listing and apply it to the citizens of that urban community as it relates to the police officers who don’t look like them, don’t speak like them, don’t relate to them; who are also rely on their experience (training methods) to believe that police officers are there to do more harm than good. All we hear about in the news is animalistic behavior and gang mentality. So the question I always ponder is who are they talking about; the citizens or the officers? I say that because I find very little reason to not group them both together as whole because there is enough sharable blame for both sides. But is this malignant relationship something new or is this something in our lineage? Once again I ask, do we not find ourselves repeating history albeit we routinely study and analyze history to a fault? This concept of officer versus community is the mirror of the plantation overseer versus slave. The problem is no one wants to admit that the modern-day minority still live on plantations, they just now call them housing projects/tenements. My challenge for anyone who is Caucasian, is to find how many African-Americans live in their neighborhoods versus that of Caucasian Americans; African-Americans you do the same. I am willing to bet that there is an extreme range in the ratio. When we look back on the slave structure in America, I want you to examine this like a food chain map. This is the breakdown: Main Plantation House (White Owners w/some blacks who stayed close to them in service quarters)–Overseers (who protected the plantation owners from slave uprising and slavery discourse)—Slaves (tended to the land, lived in impoverished conditions, living off of strap handouts and discarded leftovers). Ok, if you don’t grasp it, here’s the modern flip. We have main stream society upper to middle class who consists largely of Caucasian America with a sprinkle of accomplished African-Americans. They for the most part live in nice communities. We have police officers who protect those communities, in fact they are a part of that community. There work requires that they go police the communities that they hope that their community never becomes. None of this is wrong, but it is the structure that I want you to comprehend. Police officers going from a point of privilege go into a community of the disenfranchised, the dysfunctional; those individuals who are living off of the scraps and degradation of being disconnected from society. Be mindful that there are some several generations of bad legacy who have an adopted psyche of poverty, turmoil, lost hope and dejection. I hope that I am not losing you when trying to narrow my theory without widening the conversation, but the end result is that the modern officer represents what the prior regime, the overseer, represented to the slaves who only wanted to be considered a person, but was consistently told they were nothing more than animals and savages fit only for the confinements they were thrown into. We hear “animal” and “savage” being used constantly nowadays and ponder where this mentality stems from. Is this not history repeating itself? Is not what we are experiencing now with police officers and urban communities not the same dysfunctional relationship to that of a plantation overseer and the slaves? Police officers in urban communities don’t represent peace, they represent a time-honored tradition of population control and confinement. And whether we admit it or not, the roles in America have not changed, they are just doused in Maybeline in order to cover up the real scar in America which is never mending the wounds caused by this country’s forefathers. Still we move forward in social media debate, bias news coverage and worthless politicians. If you closed your eyes, you would think we are in the 1960’s. Just like we are repeating history once again. #because we are.

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