Empowerment by Police

 

Ozell Sutton

CRS Mediator, Atlanta Office


[Full Interview]

And the next thing you are interested in establishing among people who before then had no power, you are interested in establishing in them a sense of power is the wrong word, but a sense of ways that they can protect themselves. In other words, you are empowering them. That's what I'm trying to say. And every time you ought to leave them empowered.

Question:
Yes, so you are strengthening their capacity.

Answer:
Oh yes. To deal with that problem, should it occur next week, or next year, or next ten years, that they aren't totally dependent on you, because you may not be in place. That they too can deal with it.

Question:
Hold that place and lets back up to empowerment. What are some techniques that you use to empower community members?

Answer:
Knowledge and know-how-- the ability to assess.

Question:
You taught them that? What did you teach them and how?

Answer:
You teach them how to locate resources. As I say, there are three levels of illiteracy, and only one of them is academic. Another one is systemic. How they use the system. Poor people and unempowered people are unempowered because they don't know how to use the system to their advantage. So they just go back and get mad about that. I have an old saying: Don't get mad, get even. Don't get mad is the same thing a preacher would say, don't curse the darkness, light a candle. And I call myself lighting a candle, teaching them how to utilize the system. The third area for illiteracy is that of race and ethnicity. We are so ignorant as it relates to race and other people beside ourselves. So I call that cultural illiteracy. We are culturally illiterate, we are academically illiterate, we are systematically illiterate, and when you put the three together, you can empower people. Blacks must learn how to solicit others in their fight. See, the question in America now is not just black and white, like it used to be. The Hispanics are coming in large numbers, as are Asians in this region. There is a greatly increased number of Asians in this region. From Cambodia, from Vietnam, and from other parts of the southeast Asia. I work with them and say, you know, "That's the Jewish community in there." The Hispanic community and you should get together. Go call on a leader with the Hispanic community. They have a natural kinship with you and so now they might not be willing to go as far as you are willing to go, because no one is willing to go as far as you're willing to go if it is your problem. So how to mobilize? I deal with black students on college campuses like that. How to be effective when you are a minority. Don't just sit back and say that white folk do this and white folk do that. They impose their decisions on us, get strategically into decision making bodies. Make sure someone from your group is on these bodies. You complain about spending all of the student activity fee and they won't bring anyone in that you want to come in and speak. Don't just sit back and complain, strategically get some of your people on the committee that disperses the money.

Question:
So knowledge of, as well as involvement in the system is important.

Answer:
That's true. It's important to know how to use it. Until you benefit like everyone else. Otherwise the majority uses it to its benefit.