If you know any Gen X folks, or you are one, you might know that we grew up in a time when the PR machine for police was at an all time high.
If you don’t believe me, check out The Marshall Project. One of the best sources for digging into the history and machine behind making everyone believe cops and the system the institution was built on were there for the people.
From Miami Vice, to Law & Order, to Batman comics. A whole generation was trained to trust police, and distrust Black men that weren’t wearing a uniform.
I personally grew up with heroes like Jim Gordon. Batman’s go-to guy on the Gotham police force who stood out as one of the lone people that wasn’t bought by the mob. It was still copaganda.
If you didn’t know, that “badge” comes with a pretty dark history only recently told in media and stories. Men used those badges to hunt down and capture runaway enslaved people.
Getting to the Point
When I started writing The Saint George Chronicles, it was supposed to be a mystery/adventure love story between two detectives. Simply put, in the year 2019, I was oblivious. A friend back then saw where I was headed with my flash fiction, and then novella drafts and pointed me to a very long article about copaganda. And pointedly said – ‘it’s a fantasy world you are building, you don’t have to make it like our world.’ I took that to heart and started to rewrite The Saint George Chronicles with a very different approach in mind.
There are other community safety systems around the world that have proven to be more about the public good than the US policing system. I borrowed from those.
On June 5th, 2020 – I paused my Saint George flash fiction. Because so many people in the US and around the world were watching as people took to the streets to protest George Floyd’s death.
Rewrites helped, and the public safety system that is currently in the first volume of The Saint George Chronicles was largely because of feedback from other writers and Writing With Color. While my guys are white, it was still very sound advice on how to approach the subject matter in a way that wasn’t perpetuating a system that frankly, sucks.
I’ve thought about that decision a lot. Maybe I should have changed their work environment to be firefighters, or medical staff, anything else other than detectives. (BTW – if you know anything about the SFPD, I used “detectives” instead of “inspectors” to purposely make that separation between my public safety units and current systems.)
By The Dragon’s Lance, the second volume in The Saint George Chronicles, I had made a decision to have my characters face the consequences of lying, or at the very least, omitting the truth about their situation and all it entailed. In the chapter “Fallout,” they were fired and removed from service, and not just removed but BARRED from obtaining another public safety position anywhere in the country. (That database of police misconduct was a campaign promise from Biden. It still hasn’t materialized.)
Some folks reading the weekly web serial thought it was really harsh. For me, it was necessary. The consequences of their actions had to be dealt with in a way that didn’t perpetuate the stereotype.
This blog post was prompted by an article from Book Riot called: Copaganda In Romance Novels. It had me thinking about The Saint George Chronicles. Did I do enough to avoid the stereotypes? Or did I avoid addressing the problems by “changing the system”? Maybe all I did was I show some idealistic example. Maybe it’s all three. It’s a lesson I can live with and I’m still learning on the daily.