Power Corruption not Racism is the Universal Flaw in the Police and Society 


The issues referred to in '"I can't breathe', a rally cry anew for police protests in US" (Daily Mountain Eagle, May 30-31, 2020) are too morally important to conflate truth with bias for political sake. For that reason it is a mistake to combine events that have nothing to do with race or racism. This happens when blaming President Trump or one particular political party for racism to score political goals. Many will ask, exactly how does the issue of Russian collusion, for which there is much disagreement, have anything to do with racism? Should we think that attempting to hide one's guilt to avoid punishment, as in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, is unique to any racial divide. In the death of Breonna Tayler, police departments across our nation have injured or killed citizens of all races because of mistakes carrying out "no knock" warrants. Not only are incidences of corruption and incompetence not evidence that proves racism, we can actually see that race is often incidental to these problems given a hostility that exists between African-American and Africans who have recently immigrated. Racism is often not simply about race. We belittle issues like these when we reduce their causes to simplistic perspectives. 

There is a human reality that far more accurately explains what was wrong with these police officers. This fact is revealed by the statement: "power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely." While real racism is an example of an abuse of power this is the risk when any person is given any power or authority in any human relationship. We find this through all human history and all societies. No exceptions. Certainly as a nation we must police the police because of the authority we extend to the law enforcement when we allow them to carry a gun and use violence in the performance of their job. For no other reason the temptation is all the greater At the same time we cannot discount that many police officers manage this attraction to power quite well, serving honorably while risking their lives and dying to protect citizens regardless of race or religion or economic status. 

The opposite of this service is found in the officers guilty of Mr. Floyd's death. They exhibit arrogance believing they can behave with impunity Their faces show no recognition of "doing anything wrong." But that same mentality is repeated by individuals who destroy other people's lives while demonstrating against injustice. Like m the killing of Mr. Floyd many of these protests have devolved into more injustice and abuse of power It is to our peril that we forget that the potential for corruption exists in society as a whole and no race or sex or religion is perfectly exempt. At minimum, the justice we seek in overcoming racism is the same for all abuse: no one is above the law This idea can actually be reduced to a deeper principle; we ought not to do to others what we do not want done to ourselves. Failing to apply this universal justice is the seed that allows power to be abused. 

David A. Cook, PhD

Jasper, Ala.