Last week a shooter killed five Dallas policemen and wounded nine others at a protest held in Dallas to protest the killings of black men in Minnesota and Louisiana. This is the largest single killing of police officers since 9/11.
Too many people remain focused almost exclusively on police abuses, and such abuses clearly exist. There’s absolutely no doubt that they do. And for all the light shined on such abuses, they continue to occur. Some police departments have made great strides in dealing with the issue of discriminatory “over-policing” of minorities, especially blacks, and some have done far less to address the problem of police abuse, especially of black males.
Police officers need to realize that the problem isn’t going to just die down and go away. It won’t, not so long as abuses continue, so long as black anger increases, and so long as there are three hundred million guns in the United States.
Yet, from what I’ve seen reported, the Dallas police department is one of those that seems to have been trying hard and doing well in this regard, one headed by a black police chief, and one where the officers killed were on duty protecting a peaceful demonstration, ironically against police excesses – until the shooter opened fire.
That said, the black community has to face up to some very hard facts as well. By any standard, even taking into account poverty, poor schooling, and various systemic problems that cause discrimination, including racial profiling, the crime rate among young black males is unacceptable. Other impoverished minorities face a great many of the same structural and social problems, and the crime rate of their young males comes nowhere close to that of young black males. Drive-by shootings and random violence and killing of children as a result of gang fights are not deaths caused by police behavior.
Yet all too many on each side of this divide, and it is a divide, refuse to see or address their own problems, and the anger and the shouting seem to grow louder. While neither side is totally blameless and neither side is totally to blame, too many on each side are behaving that way. In effect, it’s another example of polarization.
David Brown, the Dallas police chief, said it well, that the divisiveness has to stop, but it won’t stop until the majorities and minorities on each side in all metropolitan areas and towns take a long, hard, and honest look at their own problems. There’s been progress, but not nearly enough, and we as a society are running out of time.