How Many Do You Think?

As many of you may well know I have a podcast called Capt. Hunter’s Podcast. Recently I started a new segment, called Monthly Wrap Up. In these segments, I will be exploring some of the major items from law enforcement during that current month. While going over some notes for the month of September 2019, I came across the viral story of the now-disgraced former Muskegon, MI. police officer, Charles Anderson.

According to the New York Times Anderson was a member of the police department for more than two decades and was selling his home. A Black couple who were in the market for a new home went to the Anderson home with a realtor in hopes of finding their dream house. What they found was a nightmare for many African Americans. They saw the racist paraphernalia of a Confederate Flag placemat and a framed KKK application hanging on the wall. Furthermore, they also saw material pointing to the fact that the homeowner was a police officer. When the potential buyers saw the material, the couple decided they saw enough and quickly made their egress from the home. They posted their findings on social media and the storm grew from there. The information quickly made it to Anderson’s police administrators and city officials. Upon receiving information about the paraphernalia in the officer’s home, he was quickly placed on leave and finally terminated in the month of September.

I certainly applaud the department and the City in taking swift action and removing this “bad apple” from the rest of the bunch. However, as I mused over the situation, I got a little angry. Police officers are routinely placing themselves in precarious social situations which I believe needs to stop. But the problem is that I and only a certain segment of the population think this behavior needs to cease.

Let me explain my frustration. First, we don’t know how long the Anderson’s were living in that home or how long they were in possession of that material. However, I will use my imagination going forward. It’s been reported that this former officer was a member of his department for more than 20 years. Lets’ use some speculation concerning this case, if we can.

Let me ask some hopefully thought-provoking questions. In the 20 years on the Muskegon PD, how many friends did Anderson have? How many times did any of his friends come over to watch a game? Did any of his friends ever notice the ominous KKK application on his wall?  Did any of Anderson’s police buddies ever come over for a beer? Does Anderson’s wife have any friends? Did they ever come over for some tea and crumpets? Did any of their friends ever notice the Confederate Flag placemats on the dining room table? How many Thanksgiving dinners, Easters, birthdays, anniversaries, Christmases, Superbowl parties and other social events were celebrated in the Anderson home with this paraphernalia hanging on the wall? When family and in-laws came over, how many times did the Andersons have to move their placemats so that no one spilled their beverage on his sentimental heirlooms? I don’t know if they have children. Did they need the service of a babysitter? If so, did she ever notice the garbage hanging from the wall? If there were children when they got older, how many times were school friends and neighborhood kids subjected to seeing the racist accouterments? What about sleepovers?  In my own home, I’ve had workers come over to do estimates and actual work. We had a rug replaced and needed the assistance of an electrician. Did the Andersons have similar needs? If so, how many professional people, carpet cleaners, painters, etc., saw the memorabilia and said nothing?

Don’t kid yourself about us living in a completely post-racial society. While I’m glad that this country has made great strides toward racial justice and equality there are many people who still long for the 1950s and the good ole days. This former cop most likely lived a life where he didn’t have to hide his racist ideology, feelings or affinity for the good ole days. I can imagine that the racist blind spot of his community was so strong that not even the realtor thought to tell him to take that stuff down because it might hinder the possibility of a sale.

Did any family member tell him to get rid of that stuff? Did his in-laws have a problem with seeing it? Did his children ever say, “Hey dad, that stuff ain’t good, please take it down before my friends see it”? Was the fact that he was in possession of such material ever brought to the attention of his police administration prior to the viral video?

Fortunately, Muskegon Police Dept. is conducting an in-depth internal investigation. Maybe some of these questions will be answered when they reach their conclusion. It wasn’t until an upwardly mobile (I assume) Black family walked into this neighborhood that things got turned upside down. Until then I assume, that it never crossed their collective minds that that stuff was a problem. And to be sure about the state of some people’s thought process, the Black couple received death threats for speaking out.

As you the reader, can tell I’m not so concerned about the actions of Anderson, my focus is on who else knew and said nothing. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” My point is that this man and his intimate circle were comfortable with these ideas. To be so entrenched in this line of thinking is devastating and disappointing to hear.

But how many more police officers, doctors, lawyers, politicians, electricians, teachers, you name the profession, have these types of memorabilia in their homes right now and see no issue with it? How many people in this country live nowhere near other ethnicities and therefore have no inclination to get rid of that stuff? No matter how many viral videos come across the internet, how many town halls are conducted, how many news stories, articles concerning racism, implicit bias training are completed throughout the country, someone is not going to get rid of that stuff. To them its history, honor, courage and a reminder of the good ole days.

So, let me ask you, how many people do you think saw that stuff and said nothing?

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