“I see you received excellent marks on your overall training evaluation, Mr. Collins.”
“Yes Ma’am. Thank you.” Brad Collins was standing in front of his section chief’s desk on what he hoped was his first official day on the job. She had a reputation for being strict and pulling no punches, so needless to say, he was a bit nervous. But he needed this job. Actually, he’d wanted this job ever since he was a little kid. Being here was the culmination of a 20-year-long dream. Now if only the dream would come true.
“You can address me as ‘Ms. Nash’ or ‘Chief Nash,’ Mr. Collins.” Nash’s expression was stern as she stared at him through the thick lenses of her glasses. It was rumored that her expression almost never changed, at least during work hours.
“Yes, Ms. Nash.” He stood ramrod straight in front of her desk as she carefully turned the pages in his final evaluation report.
“You signed your loyalty statement this morning, I see.” Nash didn’t bother to look up when she addressed him.
“Yes, Ma…Yes, Ms. Nash.” The loyalty test was one of the most challenging examinations to pass, not because of any physical or intellectual difficulty, but because it was so hard for most people to purge all possible tendencies toward disloyalty. Duffy, Brad’s first instructor, told him that most applicants were denied employment because of this, even if they passed all of the other exams.
Nash murmured to herself as she went through the checklist. “Colorblind response, good. Rugged individual response…good. Hmmm.”
Had she found something? Brad tried to be so careful as he answered each of the twenty-eight items contained in the loyalty statement. He’d even tutored with Duffy after hours to make sure his responses would be text-book perfect, which is exactly what the chief expected.
Nash was silent for a moment. Brad thought he could hear himself sweat.
“Your reply to the question of penitence is good, but your psych eval in this area indicates a slightly elevated incidence of white guilt.” She looked up from the report and stared straight at Brad, her lenses artificially magnifying her eyes. “Do you have anything to say about this?”
Oh great. She was comparing his responses to his psych eval. Brad didn’t think of that. “Ms. Nash, I don’t believe I harbor undue feelings of white guilt that are unattached to actions against racism. The test results may indicate residual feelings I previously held of needing to do more in the area of anti-racist activity. I think overcoming those issues is one of the reasons I’d be a good match for this position.”
“Hmmm.” Nash returned to looking at the report seemingly unimpressed. “I see.”
Brad was rubbing his moist palms together behind his back. Nash didn’t say anything else for several seconds.
“White wash response is classic. Well done.” She still sounded like she was talking to herself.
“Thank you, Ms. Nash.” She didn’t look up when he spoke.
“No false identification with people of color, I see. Excellent”. Even though she seemed to be praising Brad, she sounded like she was merely making perfunctory remarks, saving her energy for the criticisms she was about to deliver.
“Now this is interesting.” Brad hoped it wasn’t ‘interesting’ as in ‘bad’.
“You state that several years ago, you felt ‘stuck’ in advancing in anti-racist activities and that you asked assistance from a white school teacher, field and track coach specifically.”
“Yes, Ms. Nash. That’s right.” What trap was she about to catch him in?
“Why didn’t you seek assistance from a person of color, Mr. Collins?” She looked up from the report again, paralyzing him with her eyes, her expression, her cool, calculating presentation.
“I had briefly considered consulting a person of color. My math teacher Ms. Johnson might have been helpful…” In mid-sentence, Brad realized what Nash was doing and then his response became readily apparent. “…but my understanding is that most people of color don’t have the time or energy to continually educate white anti-racists. Also, at that age, I hadn’t established myself as sufficiently trustworthy as an ally to impose on a person of color.”
Nash’s expression and posture was unchanged but as Brad kept talking, he knew he was on the right track. “Instead, I sought out a white mentor, who I knew was more advanced in white anti-racism, to guide me through my roadblock.”
Brad tried to suppress a smile of satisfaction. She might interpret it as white arrogance which would undo everything he had just said.
“Very well.” Nash adjusted her glasses and kept reading through the final few pages in front of her.
Nearly a minute passed as Brad thought (hoped) Nash was ticking off the last of the twenty-eight items, satisfied he had responded to them adequately and that his white anti-racism work was sufficient to make him a loyal ally of people of color such as herself.
Without a word, Nash carefully closed the report and placed it directly in front of her on the desk. She rose from her seat and turned away from Brad, walking toward the window behind her which, for the entire interview, had been shielded behind heavy curtains.
Brad blinked momentarily as Nash opened the curtains, letting sunlight flood into the room. Then she returned to her desk, opened the center drawer, took out two items and placed them on the desk on top of his report.
Brad tried not to look at her desktop but it was hard to ignore what was sitting there. Before he could let temptation pull his gaze downward, Chief Nash extended her right hand to him over her desk.
“Congratulations, Officer Collins. You have passed your last test, the anti-racist test, very well.”
Brad shook her hand a little too vigorously. “Thank you, Chief. It will be an honor to serve.”
Releasing Brad’s hand, Chief Nash handed the newly-minted police officer his badge and his sidearm saying, “Welcome to the New York City Police Department.”
Given yesterday’s blog post on social justice and racism, I thought it appropriate to write an “alternate future” short story about implementing white anti-racism standards into police force training, causing them to be the “make or break” measure by which a person was accepted or rejected as a police officer.
I used Jona Olsson’s article Detour-Spotting for white anti-racists as the guide for Collins’ “final exam,” the list of “28 Common Racist Attitudes and Behaviors” I had originally found at Odin’s B-Log.
It can be one thing to read such lists and consider how or if to apply them to our individual lives, but what happens when you make them the official criteria for getting a job as a police officer or any other form of employment? What happens if they become part of a loyalty statement of a white officer to officers and superiors of color as well as people of color generally in the population you are trained to serve? What would happen if they became the loyalty statement required to join the military? What would happen if they became law and applied to all American citizens, the breaking of any of these attitudes punishable by fine or imprisonment?
Just a few thoughts to consider. Would implementing such a law make our world a utopia or dystopia?