In the wake of Wednesday’s shooting in Alexandria, Virginia where Congressman Steve Scalise and several others were injured, there has been much commentary about the black officers hailed as heroes for killing shooter James Hodgkinson.
Once such piece was Son of Baldwin’s narrative “Let Them Fucking Die.” When I managed to retract my eyebrows from my hairline – though why I should be surprised at this consistently fearless writer’s eloquence is silly – I did object to one thing.
From a thickly layered, historically motivated subtext he pointed a rather crooked and shaky finger at Capital Police Officers David Bailey and Crystal Griner, as though they’d done something wrong by saving Scalise’s life and the lives of the others’ present. But in certain jobs, whether those who benefit from your heroism or performance excellence are morally reprehensible is irrelevant.
Don’t get me wrong, I know where Son of Baldwin is coming from. My 71-year-old beautician summed it up rather neatly while she was coloring my hair today. Bailey had just flashed cross the TV screen, stoically stating that he was just doing his job; she said, “Whether he saved they ass or not, they’ll be calling him nigga tomorrow.” I laughed, but I know exactly what she meant.
It is only in a fictional Utopia that performance will always be its own reward, especially for minorities in the workplace. But at some point we have to make a decision: Let the environment in which we live and work poison us, or refuse to allow others actions to reduce the shine from our own.
Whether, as Son of Baldwin said, those officers did the world a disservice by saving certain Republican lives at that fateful ball game, Bailey and Griner were doing their jobs. And in certain professions – if those in them are operating according to the tenants upon which they were founded – to serve and protect, for instance – there is no cherry picking where and for whom one works.
Personally, I’m going to bask in this rare moment of the media trotting out these Black officers as heroes. It’s already fading in the wake of bipartisan political bickering and the inevitably quick shift away from the minority done good narrative to, well, anything else. Sure, I know that some of the fanfare – regardless of their actions – is because their color is convenient for the VA police force and for larger groups at work to quell the racial turmoil the country is suffering. But I choose to focus on the fact that Griner and Bailey’s performance excellence put a firm and definitive stake in the persistent idea that black men and women are inferior in the workplace, or that we are incapable of wearing the proud and dignified mantle of a brave and selfless hero.
Let’s not allow the angst and racial misdeeds of the government to detract from the fact that these two people excelled, fearlessly, selflessly on the job. They were injured in the line of duty and lived to tell the tale. That deserves far more than our scorn because their efforts may have saved Scalise’s unpalatable politics for another day.