Uncomfortable Questions

at 12:35 AM
Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again

The other night we watched a report about a black man named Michael Brown who had been killed by a police officer. At the protests, people shouted, “Hands up!  Don’t shoot!"

My son, Zane, asked me why. Zane is Black. I am a white man who works as a deputy. For years I have said that the color of our skin does not matter, but clearly it does. I could not say, "Don’t worry. This happened back in Ferguson,” when the truth is that it could happen right here.

I don't know the circumstances of this death. I do know that a bunch of white guys in camouflage driving around in Hum Vees won't make it any better.

We think that in California we’ve grown past the problem of white police officers profiling young black men, but we’re not much better. In San Francisco, where the black population hovers around 7 percent, more than 40 percent of those in jail are black.

Zane is only seven years younger than Michael Brown. Statistically, my black son stands a 50 percent chance of being arrested before he turns 23. Having a white cop for a Dad might not save him.


I’m proud to work for the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department, one of the most diverse law enforcement agencies in the country. But I've been to enough statewide conferences to know that we are the exception, not the rule. At far too many trainings, I have been the only gay cop in the room talking to the only black cop.

What do I say to my son? I'm trying to change the culture of cops by being a cop myself. I'm trying to show my brothers in blue that the badge means more than carrying the biggest gun. I'm trying to put the peace back into peace officer.

At the end, I could only tell Zane the truth: bad things happen and we need the  courage to make change. Our hands are indeed up, his black hand in my white hand, reaching for something better.

With a Perspective, this is Kevin Fisher-Paulson.