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By Nicole A. Simmonds-Jordan G'20

As the lights and sirens approach, Black America is struck with an indescribable fear. It does not even need to be the police; an ambulance can drive by and I tremble. From the flashing lights to the screams of the sirens, Black people have been conditioned to fear the blue. Conditioned because policing has consumed our lives. Policing has destroyed the Black family; it has animalized our men and dismissed the cries of Black women. Policing has stolen our youth’s innocence, while monopolizing our faith. Policing does not need reform; it needs to be rebuilt on a foundation of principles that reflect the nation it serves.

As the image of policing is being destroyed, I have uncovered my most uncomfortable truth: I am a Black woman married to a Black Special Agent in the U.S. Secret Service, and my brother is a hero in the police community. I will always be Black first, but society has demanded that those in my position must choose a side: Black or blue? I am not torn between the two because I am comfortable on both sides. As I reach my hands out to my Black brothers and sisters, I am reaching just as hard for my brothers and sisters in blue to join me in the middle.

My brother, DJ Simmonds ’08, was an honorable Boston police officer who lost his life to save our city. He died of head injuries one year after being wounded during the shootout in Watertown with the Boston Marathon bombers. He put behind his fears of the badge to become a man in blue.

When we were children, my brother’s face would light up as the blue lights and sirens sped by. As he grew older, the lights and sirens stopped speeding by. Instead, they would stop to pull him over — he was driving while Black. Growing up in Randolph, Massachusetts, we were embraced by a diverse community, but it shocked us all when my brother came home and shared his first encounter with the police. After he picked up his paycheck from the local grocery store and walked home, the lights and sirens surrounded him. He wasn’t even old enough to drive, but he was old enough to fit the description of a criminal. After they intimidated him with their badge, they let him go. This incident confirmed DJ’s purpose in this world: to become a Black man in blue.

Black men have been positioned to always have something to prove; for DJ, it was proving those officers wrong. DJ knew that there are only two options for Black men: You either get arrested or perform the arrest. He was determined to be on the right side of the handcuffs. With that in mind, he took on the duty to help his brothers stay Black when confronted with the blue. Staring his enemy in the eyes, DJ began his pursuit of the badge when he decided to fulfill his high school community service hours with the Randolph Police Department. Through ride-alongs with Black officers, DJ came to understand the adrenaline rush that comes with the power of the badge. This only intensified his desire to earn the most elite badge in Boston.

As I give all that I have to prove my loyalty to the Black community, I am just as drained loving the blue among all of the revulsion we have seen. When you are Black and stand for the blue, it is not a 50-50 position; you assume all of the pain that comes with being Black and blue. Watching the world wake up to face their own racist systems has left Black America sitting back in awe. In awe, because so many non-Black people are finally empowered to fight for us as if they have something to prove. As far back as we can trace our lineage in America, Black people have been fighting to be seen as human. We are desperately pleading for access to a white world that was built on the backs of our ancestors.

In Boston, we hold the title for the first police force in the nation, but we also hold the title as the most racist city in our country. As we face the intersection of Black and blue, there is no greater time to make a change in our greater community of policing. As we trust our officers in blue that are led by Boston’s first Black police commissioner, we, the people, must do our part to rid our city of its sinfully racist roots that still predominate.