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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

A Twelve-Year-Old’s Take on Police Brutality

<r the past few months, my media sources have been overrun by information about police brutality. I found countless Facebook posts, television reports, and news articles posted about the ongoing crisis in our country. But despite the constant flood of news, I realized I really had no strong grasp on the subject. At least, I had no connection on a personal level. I’ve never been victimized, and come to think of it, I don’t even think I’ve ever met a policeman.

But that changed over Winter Break when my mother suggested that we watch “The Wonder Years,” a sitcom television series set in 1960s America. The protagonist of the show, Kevin Arnold, is a very spirited, outspoken, and contemplative character given his age of twelve years old. He is also white and belongs to the middle class. During one of the episodes, Kevin sits at the table and watches a newscast of the Civil Rights movement. It depicts white policemen, equipped with German Shepherds baring massive fangs, spraying power-hoses into the defenseless crowds. The camera flashes to Kevin’s mother who is also watching the broadcast. She takes a break from washing the dishes. She puts a hand under her chin and mutters “those poor, poor people.”

There is something that stuck with me from that line. By using the word “those,” she immediately separates herself from the victims. More to the point, it appears that “those” is synonymous with people of color. So what is it about human nature that always has to create a “those” or “other”? Kevin’s mother, part of a peaceful and prosperous family void of violence or economic restraints, had no way of really understanding what those “poor, poor” people were going through. And the truth is, neither do I.

Kevin and I both watched broadcast after broadcast of the atrocities from a distance, relatively void of any connection to the events. We don’t know all of the players in the game or the flip sides of the coin, but the only thing that we do know is that what’s going on is wrong and that a leader like Martin Luther King can really inspire a crowd.

What Kevin did remind me is that the child- hood belief that there is a silver lining to every storm cloud should never die. For Kevin, that silver lining was the words of Martin Luther King – an American icon. Who knows who could step up out of this mess to inspire generations to come?

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