"Mom, do all police do a bad job? Or do some police do a good job?" my son asked me this morning. "Why do some police do a bad job?"
It has been two weeks since I have taken my son with me to a police accountability rally in our hometown, and Jonah is still thinking about it. Inspired by his questions, we talked a bit about the possible reasons for why some officers may not follow protocol, and why some end up using excessive force.
At the protest, we listened to speeches given by community activists who have struggled to reform our city's police department. We heard from parents and young people affected by police brutality. The fathers of two young African-American men recently murdered by white cops were there too, although they did not speak. It was emphasized that communities of color and the homeless are disproportionately targeted by the police in our town.
Jonah asked to hold a sign and, for the first time while attending a rally with me, expressed interest in discussing the issues at hand.
My grandmother is of the opinion that five-year-olds are too young to attend protests. I disagree. I would rather expose my son to real issues and people taking action to change policy and practice for the better. Especially as someone growing up in this country in relative economic comfort and with white privilege, authentic experiences like these are crucial in his formation of a sense of community, ethics, justice and responsibility.
My son could be at home watching a Disney cartoon or playing with Legos on a Saturday morning (although we are actually a TV-free household), or he could be witnessing grassroots activism in his own community. I prefer the latter, when the opportunity for us to engage together is there.
Of course, that afternoon after returning home, Jonah whipped out his guns and played soldier in the backyard. Boys will be boys. But now he's at least learning about how serious and irreversible the damage guns cause is in real life.