Saturday, July 9, 2016
"We're hurting." Those are the simple, powerful words spoken by Dallas Police Chief David O Brown at the end of what was one of the worst weeks in recent American history for race relations. Times like these show just how far the country needs to go to heal the racial divide that still exists even as our first African American President steps down.
The sad events began when a video of an unarmed (and subdued) black man named Alton Sterling being shot by the police appeared, a tragically common appearance these days. Later this week a second video arrived, this one even more shocking as Philandro Castle, another black man. was shot by police in a car while his girl friend watched and grimly filmed and narrated the aftermath. (Even more shocking, a four year old girl was sitting in the back seat of the car at the time.)
These two violent tragedies were compounded when in Dallas, Micah X Johnson, an African American war veteran, opened fire on police officers at a peaceful rally, killing five of them and wounding others. To add more fuel to the fire, Johnson admitted that he wanted to kill white officers in retaliation for police brutality.
Obviously, Johnson's horrible actions are the result of insanity inspired by crazed violent anger, no matter how justified that anger may be. Tragically, all non violent members of the Black Lives Matter movement will be forever linked to what he has done even though Johnson was never officially connected to the group.
Is this connection fair? Of course not, and it should be noted that other recent acts of political violence have been treated differently. Last January a white man in Colorado opened fire on a Planned Parenthood building, killing three people. Would it be right for people who support abortion rights to say that all anti-abortionists agree with that man? No. There are fringe members of every movement, ones who go beyond peaceful protest; but that certainly won't stop conservative commentators of trying to discredit the Black Lives Matter group. As if one cannot both condemn the unwarranted use of deadly force by the police on citizens and not equally condemn violent attacks on the police!
The sad fact of the matter is that there are no easy answers to these problems. Racism was baked in the American cake before it was even officially a country. And I must admit, as a white man I don't understand the difficult gauntlet that black men must pass through everyday, when sometimes just walking down the street or being pulled over can be deadly. But we have to get better. We have to stop hurting.