Why ‘Don’t Call Me Brother!’?

Don’t Call Me Brother! –Andrew Merritt’s recent promotion to Assistant Police Chief of the Community Liaison Office, carries the responsibility of restoring trust between the police department and his old neighborhood a priority. The fragile balance between his life, career and family is broken when an unarmed African American youth is killed by a white police officer under questionable circumstances. All eyes are on him. The community is asking is he Black enough? The police department is asking is he Blue enough?

He is asking himself if this promotion was a step up or…a set up?

Don’t Call Me Brother is a story that moves seamlessly from the front page of any major newspaper into the homes of those with the dual citizenship of being African American and in law enforcement.

I wrote this play as a result of watching news coverage of the social unrest in Ferguson, MO and Baltimore, MD as I watched the faces of African American police officers who were dispatched to quell the unrest. How must they be feeling? There is no doubt they joined the police force to protect and serve their community but there was absolutely no doubt that they fully understood why their brothers and sisters in communities of color were angry. Many of them were probably angry too.

I will preface this piece by saying that they is without question improvement needed on both sides of the badge. Law enforcement and communities of color have much work to do. Unfortunately, these changes will have to happen concurrently with improving the

So I contacted  a number of African Americans who were in law enforcement and asked their feelings about the recurring situation in this country, in fact, in their cities about unarmed African Americans being killed by police officers…without any consequences or accountability.

Their feelings, though not  publicly stated were  similar to those expressed by the African American communities across the country.  It goes beyond cultural literacy.  There are officers wearing the ‘blue’ who shouldn’t be allowed to.


(Don’t Call Me Brother! WOW Production in Columbia SC)

They also know that key to improving relations between communities of color and law enforcement is that this problem must be corrected. According to several of the law enforcement officers, one of the biggest problems is that it is almost impossible to remove the unsuitable officers on the force from the inside. Community involvement is needed, meaning residents must step forward when there is a problem concerning an officer’s behavior.

Unfortunately, the people who have the most to gain from lodging complaints, also have the most to lose. They are residents of the communities with the problem sand are acutely aware of the cliché that ‘snitches get stitches’. The fear of reprisal from the police is very real to the people in these same neighborhoods.

I watched and listened to the interviews with the families and friends of the dead men. I watched and listened to the politically correct and crafted response to the shootings from the various police departments made by someone who didn’t look like the victim. I started thinking about those with dual citizenship. Being African American and being in law enforcement.

*My next blog addresses some of the push back I got for the play…*