Friday, July 8, 2016

Dallas -- once again

While I don't condone the violence that took the lives of five police officers last night in Dallas, it is not hard for me to understand the cumulative rage and hopelessness that has built up in young black men in this country.    From what we know thus far, the shootings in Baton Rouge and in a St. Paul, MN suburb, just days before, were prime examples of the racism that they face in some -- let me emphasize some -- police officers.

At the same time, turning against the police is not the answer.   Some places (New York City and the state of Nevada are two I know about) have instituted innovative programs, not just to get rid of overt, explicit racism in police forces, but to train them to recognize and combat within themselves the unconscious, implicit racism that pervades our whole society.   The emphasis is building trust and relationship with the community.

By all accounts, prior to the moment the sniper opened fire, the Black Lives Matter sponsored Dallas rally was entirely peaceful.   Further, there are reports of friendly cooperation between the protesters and police officers, For this to be the context in which  a few  [police now believe it was a lone sniper] retaliated against white police officers is doubly discouraging and sad.   Some say that the Dallas Police Department and its Chief -- a black man -- are better than most in having good relationships with the community.

We must not allow this to escalate into "civil war" that one New York tabloid newspaper blared in its headlines early this morning.   We must not blame Black Lives Matter, who organized a peaceful rally.  The shooters were not part of that movement.   Nor must we make a wholesale indictment of police.

We must not blame each other.   This is a problem that we all own, and we must solve it together.   Progress is being made.    It is too little, so far.   Let's hope it is not too late.


PS:   My headline, "Dallas -- once again," is not an indictment of the city.   It's the location of a national tragedy that those of us, of a certain age, remember from that fateful day of November 23, 1963  when our young Camelot president was shot near this same spot by a gunman high up in a building.

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