Ben Fields. You might recognize that name from recent headlines. (It also happens to be the name of the best man at my parents’ wedding…but I digress.) Ben Fields is a South Carolina police officer who made headlines last month for this video in which he violently flips a female high school student out of her desk on account of her allegedly not putting her cell phone away at her teacher’s request. The video is horrific and a testament to the kind of violence that has been occurring against black and brown students for years.
Ben Fields is, in many ways, the perfect white villain–male, southern, aggressive, law enforcement officer. Ben Fields is also a man. He is a man probably not much unlike many of the men in my family and that I grew up with in Texas. I was reminded today that Ben Fields is a man when I read this piece by his former high school basketball coach, Luke Hartman.
I was struck by how Fields’ former teammate and coach (who, I find it useful to mention, are both black) voice the complexity of the Ben who they know “as a loving human being” committing a senseless and disturbing act of violence.
I wish that more white people would notice and give voice to these complexities instead of rushing to protect their own when something like this happens. Instead, we create dividing lines and make people choose. Blue Lives Matter vs. Black Lives Matter. Support Officer Fields vs. support the young victim. Why aren’t we allowed to say, “That person was a close friend, family member, etc.” AND “I don’t support this act, violence, word choice, etc.” We need more brave and honest white folks to call out bad systems and evil acts while still holding their people close. It’s not selling out. It’s love in it’s purest form–embracing the good with the bad, holding close and holding accountable.