vendredi, juillet 08, 2016

Do our polarized views on race and violence represent an America being torn apart?

Two African American men shot and killed at the hands of police in cold blood on the streets of Baton Rouge and St. Paul.

Five police officers murdered by snipers near the end of a peaceful protest route in Dallas.  Dallas, a city in which the police have worked successfully to bring down the arrest rate and number of officer-involved shootings.

Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla.  Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.  Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Md.  The Justice Department, which investigated the Martin and Brown cases, couldn't prosecute (and it's looking unlikely that any police officer will be convicted in Gray's death), because to do so would mean proving intent.

But we, the American people, who generally aren't judges or jury members - we don't really need to prove intent, a tremendously high bar.

The problem we're having isn't really isn't solely about bad cops, though there certainly are rogue policemen.

To be clear - it's  not an excuse for the horrific killings of black men to say that unless they have accompanied officers on patrol, most Americans probably don't have much idea of the pressures under which many policemen and women actually work.

Maybe it would help for some of us to learn more.  It's possible that some of the aberrant behavior we have seen is a result not only of bias but of lack of training, overexposure to violence, or a culture of toxic masculinity. It may be no coincidence that one of the gunmen was an Army reservist who served in Afghanistan.

But at least in part, there's a larger problem - it's us.

A long time arriving here, many of us have stubbornly refused to see the toll institutional racism and militarization is taking on the daily lives, not only of minorities, but of what we claim to value most about our culture: mutual respect, compassion, civility, the humane decency that should inform our democracy.

Centuries of racism aren't erased with a war over slavery, Congressional legislation like the Voting Rights Act, affirmative action, or even proactive policing policies (though those offer some real hope of success in reducing the carnage).

When I watched those videos (once was enough), and read the articles, the first question that sprang to mind was: why were those officers so afraid? Is fear of blackness that engrained in some of us that our first response is to shoot?

That black men are killed at a higher incidence than anyone else (except a smaller population of Native Americans) isn't up for debate. The question is why.

Given your political leanings, it's way too easy to fall into these traps.  I'm sure you can name many more.

If police are generally good, the protesters must be bad. If the protesters have justice on their side, there must be no good police.  

Men and women of goodwill can respect the authority and good intentions of most officers of the law while expecting them to treat African-American men like human beings - at a minimum.

These tragic incidents are all about white rage. No wait, they are all about black rage. 

Let's not confuse the Black Lives Matter movement with a sniper atop a building shooting white officers.  Conversely it's not helpful to  imagine that every white person is filled with racial hatred.

White Americans have no right to prescribe a fix for racism.  White Americans are solely responsible for fixing it. 

First and foremost, privileged white men and women have got to find a way to sit still and listen to the pain of our black sisters and brothers.  But it's also true that there is no way our culture can heal without white participation, given the power we wield in more or less measure.

This crisis is all about racial justice. Or about police misconduct. Or America's toxic gun culture. 

Wise voices among us, like Congressman John Lewis, are calling us out on all three counts.

In embracing anyone of these perspectives, with polarization as our default setting, we have abandoned not only reason but responsibility for the fate of this country many of us claim to love. It's broken.

If we  don't take a hard look at our own assumptions, the favored narratives that inform our perspectives, there's really no hope of substantive change.

Do we really want to be a society that slaughters or incarcerates its African-American young men or has lost faith in the rule of law? Is the bloodstained, angry, fearful America we saw this week the best that we can do?

There have been few times in recent history when the questions seemed so pressing - and the need to find constructive and hopeful answers so great.  Are you scared enough yet?

I am.