We’re Getting It All Wrong

Many who’ve been following me for a while know how often I used to post about politics, but for the most part I’ve ceased doing so for about the past year, or around the time the presidential primaries began to heat up. I stopped because I simply got tired of listening to myself, and everyone else, rant on and I refused to add to all the noise. I know that’s not the right mentality to have, but I started to become mentally exhausted when it came to politics. One would think social media would be the ideal medium for the exchange of ideas, but lately all I see are people insulating themselves and having screaming matches. At best, we talk past one another and dismiss entire groups as stupid; at worst, we threaten each other and use social media to coordinate real life riots and attacks. But none of this is news.

Right now, I want to talk about a particular person in my life, my father—Grady Thompkins—and some things a lot of my fans and followers don’t know about him. Years ago, my father was a police officer, but not just any police officer. My father was one of the best police officers the Vivian Police Department ever had. He was and continues to be a respected leader in the community. Vivian, Louisiana, is a very small town, but my father’s accomplishments were anything but small.

Grady Thompkins (left) and Ryan Nelson (right)

And as you can see, my father is black. What my father was known for as a police officer was being able to bridge the gap between the black community of Vivian, LA, and its law enforcement. In fact, he had such a talent and charisma for it that during his time on the force, he was sent to receive special training and was commissioned as Vivian Police Department’s first Juvenile Division officer, meaning he served as somewhat of a liaison between Vivian’s youth, particularly black youth, and the town’s police force. His most impactful role in this billet was serving as a counselor and role model for many young people in Vivian and helping them to avoid unfortunate encounters with the law.

As I mentioned, my father is exceptionally charismatic, but what he also greatly contributed to the Vivian Police Department and the community was his empathy, love, and patience. He understood the plight of the black community because he, like much of my family, experienced firsthand the racism and challenges of growing up black. But being a police officer, he also understood the dangers and uncertainty the women and men who protect and serve our communities face. I remember my mother and I spending many long nights listening to the CB radio whenever a city emergency occurred and worrying whether my father would be coming home that night. Indeed, I can recall several terrifying nights when something really bad would happen, especially if it involved violence or gunfire.

My point in writing this blog article is first and foremost to honor my father who is a great man and continues to be charismatic, empathetic, patient, and loving. Secondly, in telling a little bit about my father, I hope to inspire people to care a whole lot more about understanding each other.

Also, Black Lives Matter. Does that mean I hate the women and men in blue who serve our communities and constantly put themselves in harm’s way in order to protect and serve? For the love of God, it absolutely does not. This doesn’t have to be an either/or, all-or-nothing debate. I speak as someone who has experienced “both sides,” if you will. I’m very disheartened in the way we as a society are handling this. It’s nonsensical. We seem like we absolutely refuse to try and understand one another. When you look at how we talk about it in the news and the things people post on social media, it almost seems hopeless. At least I can find solace in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who as we all know once said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

6 Replies to “We’re Getting It All Wrong”

  1. I am glad you are writing again. Yes I also got tired of the constant debate. The show Aquarius on NBC focuses partly on the issues of black rights as it is set in the 60’s. A turbulent but meaningful time for racial justice to move forward. Keep up the good work Josiah. ciao –

  2. As always, Mr. Jennings, your intelligent insights are well-written, well-meaning, and too little shared. I like that you ended it on a hopeful and true note – things will indeed be getting better soon. It will have nothing to do with any political leader now on the scene.

    We live in a time of a lot of pointless noise, as you note, but you should be quietly content within yourself that your contribution has been so heartfelt and thoughtful. The greatest tribute you could ever pay your father is to be living such a free and genuine life. You are a tremendous example to others, and he must be proud of you beyond all words.

  3. Love it clear precise to the point non-offensive this is how you get a point across nothing else needs to be said. I really enjoyed reading about your father I can really feel how much you love and respect him that is amazing :-)

  4. Well said….
    A a black man with black males friends who are cops, and having dated one, I get that most black cops see and get the point of BLACK LIVES MATTER, it’s white cops, not all, that I feel don’t understand the anger and frustration a lot of people of color are feeling. A life for a life isn’t the solution and will not solve anything, but the question remains “How do get white cops to understand the frustration and anger POC feel and also get them to acknowledge the history of violence POC have suffered at the hands of the police?” The backlash against police I’m sorry to say was inevitable, I’m not excusing it or condoning it, the rage some people felt was going to come out unfortunately that rage surfaced as violence.

  5. I have to say Welcome Back!!! I’ve personally have missed your introspective pieces on here. And you Father looks like a wonderful guy…. I was blessed to have participated in quite a few Police Community Outreach programs as a child here in Detroit…. So I don’t harbor any of the blinding resentment some of my brothers may have on a national level. Now here’s the thing with the current Police situation. When it comes to down to it Most people know that Not all cops are bad, and Not all Black people are criminals , or (insert some other random sweeping judgement statements about group XYZ here). but this is exactly why this issue is so difficult to bridge that gap between these two groups….Both groups are just People trying to Do their best to live their lives/ Do their Jobs……. and whenever there is not a Clear Good guys vs. Bad guys narrative in a story such as this… It makes it is politically difficult to take on a issue (such as Police Brutality, and uneven Racially biased statistics) and come out looking like a hero (for any re-election ambitions)….which in turn means answers (and therefore Change) are not gonna come easy. As Hard as it sounds…it’s gonna take more than just the abstract concept of “Unity” (as in holding hands singing Kumbaya…with no lasting action beyond this). We need a united front toward real solutions which has thus far eluded both Black people (who believe every encounter with a Officer may be their last day on earth)…. and Police (who, because of a legitimate fear of the stuff that happens on their Jobs) who are currently more trained to use a gun, rather than their words to take care of most situations…..we need someone with power to take this issue and come up with a solution that can unite people…. Hopefully somewhere out there……there are a few politicians who are willing to take up the call to action… but I am dying to hear what some of your guys think….. Do you guys have any Ideas of what would help this situation for both Black and Blue Lives? (I for one, think that Mandatory Federal guidelines for ALL U.S. Police departments would be a start…… not the voluntary U.S. justice department suggestions we have now….. That way it takes the problem of getting rid of bad apples cops out of the hands of the local Municipalities.) but that may be one of many changes that are needed… What do you think?

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