Yesterday, following the murder of five policemen and the wounding of seven others by a lone sniper in Dallas, I was watching a cable news channel. Two prominent guests on the show, a black woman and a white male, were discussing the Dallas tragedy and the broader subject of race relations in America. About five minutes into their discussion, they were raising their voices at each other and calling each other names.
My observation over the years is that is what always happens. Conversations on race relations seem to always deteriorate to all sides digging in their position and pointing fingers at the other sides. So can we really have constructive dialogue on race relations in America? At this point, I don’t know. But in order to do so, I believe the following three considerations must be factored in:
One, it’s impossible for us who are not police officers on the street to understand the precarious situations they often find themselves in. Every time they respond to a crime scene, it is potentially life-threatening. We question their actions at times. But we seldom if ever know the full context of how things unfolded when deadly force is applied. Do we have some bad cops? Absolutely, but we have bad representation in every entity of our society.
Two, it’s impossible for most whites in America to fully understand the frustration of blacks in America with regard to their relationship with police officers. The perspective you get via the snapshots of events that make national news is worlds apart from the actual experience of those who live it out daily in their neighborhoods. Their experience is of such a nature that it can be properly understood only by walking in the skin of people of color.
Three, the black community needs to own up to the fact that we have much work to do on the home front. We make up only about 13% of the population in America. But we commit disproportionately higher rates of crime. This in turn means more encounters with officers of the law. Only we as leaders and parents in our black communities can reverse this unpleasant dynamic.
As most Americans do, I hate the way America seems to be trending in the area of race relations. The outrage over the recent deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and of Philando Castile in Minnesota at the hands of police officers, and the subsequent heinous murders of five police officers this past week underscore how much work we have yet to do in the area of race relations in America. But as I consider the failed attempts of the past as well as the three areas presented above that need to be factored into any relevant future dialogue, I am not convinced that we are ready for constructive dialogue in the area of race relations in America.
Copyright © 2016 by Frank King. All rights reserved.