Dr. Mary Texeira has been a sociology professor at CSUSB for nearly 19 years. In the 1970s, she went into law enforcement at 21 years old. As a professor, she specializes in social inequality, race and ethnicity, class, and gender and sexuality.
Q: How was your experience in law enforcement when you first started?
A: I thought it was really exciting. But there’s always the sexism and racism that you deal with, not from the people on the streets, but from your fellow officers. My role to getting into law enforcement had to do with a court order. The court ordered police fitnesses in the 1970s, and courts were ordering police departments to diversify their departments, not just racially but also in gender. My class had thirty–something women in it, and that was the largest class the academy ever had, and we all did a good job.
Q: How has law enforcement helped you the way you teach students?
A: I think it has really helped in the classroom because you do sharpen those skills. As a professor in sociology, the skills that I used and honed in law enforcement certainly help me in the classroom. Nothing fazes me in the classroom. Nothing bothers me at all, you know? Not when you’ve gone from dealing with gang members and women in jails and that kind of thing. In terms of discipline, I’ve never had a whole lot of problems with my students anyway, but I think it’s because I do come across as confident. Policing taught me to be that confident and fearless. I’m not stupid, I don’t act rashly, but there is very little that I’m afraid of with some people I deal with.
Q: How do you feel about the protests on Black Lives Matter?
A: I’m excited! I haven’t heard very much. This is a few months after the killing of George Floyd, but I was really encouraged at the peacefulness. I think the media has really blown up the claim that there were few troublemakers. But that’s in any large protest – they’re always going to have some troublemakers. For the most part, they have been peaceful. They have been very pointed in terms of expressing their anger about what’s going on with law enforcement in this country, so I’m very very very encouraged by them.
Q: What is the problem with policing back then and now?
A: The problem with policing back then, as well as now, is the brutality and people not identifying with the people that they are supposed to be protecting and serving. I knew that then, but I didn’t act on it because I needed a job. I’m really grateful that I can use my voice now to call attention to what’s going on in law enforcement and in the criminal justice system.
Q: From your experience as an officer, do you think officers abuse their power?
Q: Should the bystander officers be held responsible for the death of George Floyd?
A: Absolutely. Like me, they had an obligation, and I think there are some laws that are being pushed through now that says, if you see something as a police officer, you need to say something. Otherwise, you can get in trouble, too. You’ve committed a crime if you’ve seen a crime being committed [and didn’t do anything about it]. With policing, [and with regards to] the term “crime” – if they’re doing it in the course of their work – most courts will see this not as a crime. For example, in the case of Breonna Taylor, those officers walked in there and they murdered her, and the grand jury has said – at least one person in the grand jury has said – that we weren’t given all of the facts.
Q: This criminal justice system was meant the way it is for Blacks and POC. Do you think the protests will help to change anything within the criminal justice system?
A: I’m asked that a lot and it’s always a struggle to answer because I don’t know [if] my answer has to do more with wishful thinking or reality. I do see some good things happening. When George Floyd’s killers were suspended from work and from their jobs now, I think it’s a result of protests we report and, you know, there are some good news happening and so I’m holding on to that.
Q: What do you think about defunding the police?
A: Five years ago, I would have said what “no way, no way are we going to defund the police.” But, when you break that down, you see that we mean: number one, we look at all the myths of policing. Police don’t stop crime for the most part and that’s kind of hard for people to wrap their heads around. They don’t stop crime. Police don’t have these magical powers; they do not know when you’re lying. Even a lie detector has not been scientifically tested, so that’s why they can’t use it in court because it’s used as a sort of intimidation.
Q: Is racism taught and learned or are you born with it?
A: We’re not born with it. Whatever fears I have, I learned how to be scared of them. There’s a difference between having biases or prejudices and then the ability to act. That’s why Black people and POC cannot be racist. Race has to do with the combination of prejudice and power.
Q: Did you ever imagine protests here in the U.S. having an impact on other countries?
A: I am impressed this was a multicultural, multiracial protest all over the world and not just in the United States. I mean, those people saw George Floyd and saw his humanity, you know? When someone who looks like George Floyd is arrested or whatever, people always say what you do wrong because he looks like he could be a criminal. People look at him and they react. They saw the humanity of this man – how do you not see the humanity of someone begging for his mother as he knows he’s dying? How do you not see that?
Q: Are there any available resources for CSUSB students and the community to stay informed about Black Lives Matter?
A: Yes, the CSUSB History Club Lecture Series on YouTube. It’s about Conversations on Race and Policing. We upload videos every Wednesday to inform the community on different topics. For instance, we have talked about policing [in] indigenous communities, White supremacists, and militia extremists in police departments, declaring racism as [a] public crisis, limits [in] community policing, police brutality and disability, and many more.