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Socratic Questioning and the Issue of Police Brutality

Posted By on August 14, 2015

Socrates. Photo Source: Wikipedia

Socrates. Photo Source: Wikipedia

I often complain about social media. It is, as author Andrew Keen calls it, The Cult of the Amateur. Most of what I see on social media is useless information. Memes that misstate a complex problem in the most ignorant of terms. Wiki warriors, armed with knowledge gleaned from the great gossipers and instigators of our time, offer up silly opinions and uninformed advice. I have come close to closing all of my social media accounts, starting with Facebook, on several occasions, but I’ve never actually done it. Because just when I’m sure I’m losing brain cells by participating in social media, someone like Dr. Brenda Nelson-Porter comes along, and I stay engaged.

Dr. Nelson-Porter understands what the Internet was intended to do. She uses it to educate and communicate. It was through a reply to one of her posts that I was challenged to think about the subject of police brutality in a different way. I can’t find the post, but Dr. Nelson-Porter was engaging in a discussion about the killing of Black people by police. She posted an article about the killing of a young White man by police, which countered the narrative of many of the commenters on the post. That’s when I saw the reply of a Black woman who asked a painfully obvious question, “Why aren’t White people more outraged?” With that question, that unknown woman began the Socratic questioning that lead me to a different perspective.

Socratic questioning is the foundation of critical thinking and effective problem solving. It has long been used  in law schools to challenge students to examine their position by forcing them to answer uncomfortable inquiries. Critical thinking requires us to deal with uncomfortable questions. It’s in the answers to those questions we find the truth.



The question struck me. It seems so simple, yet the answer lead me somewhere I had not expected. The fact is that more unarmed white people are shot by police than are black people. But no one can point to one protest that took place in response. Why is this? So, I decided to ask the question of myself.

Q. Jerri, why aren’t you outraged? 

A. Because I believe in a concept of a police force that is there to protect me and my property from criminals. I believe most people who are accused of a crime are guilty. Even though I was once accused of a crime of which I was innocent and was later vindicated. And even though those who wrongly accused me and nearly destroyed me remain in power, I still believe in the system.

This isn’t the end, though. It can’t be if we’re using the Socratic method to search for the truth. Keep questioning.

Q. Why do you still believe in a system that failed you, Jerri?

A. Because I was taught from an early age that the system is good. The system is there to protect me from bad people. The system failed me. The system was the bad people.

Q. Why aren’t you outraged, then?

A. I am outraged.

Q. Why don’t you do something to show it?

A. I’m afraid of what the system will do to me. The system can cause me great financial pain. The system can fabricate charges and cost me a lot of money. The system can prevent me from getting admitted to the bar. I can’t do anything overtly, but I can study. I can learn, quietly,  and I can change the system by becoming part of it.

And there’s my answer. I’m afraid of the police. I’m not going out to protest because I don’t want to get arrested or killed. Instead, I’m going to change the system by working to make it better. Instead of protesting, I’m going to use the legal system to pursue justice, because I believe that the legal system, and indeed our entire American system of government still works. I believe one person alone can keep the system safe and working for everyone. I believe I can make a difference.

So, why aren’t more Black people police officers?

About the author

Jerri L. Cook is a recognized leader in rural media. She holds a B.S. in Organizational Communications and a Juris Doctor (J.D.) from Concord Law School. Exceptional legal research and writing is essential to providing effective counsel. With her proven record of excellence, Jerri L. Cook provides effective trial support for attorneys who find themselves with only a 24-hour day. Her background in communications, including content creation and internet programming, complement her academic focus on Cyber Law. E-Discovery can be daunting, but with Jerri L. Cook on the team, digital information is readily discovered and retrieved. Contact her at 715.257.4363.

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