Last night in Dallas was a powerful example of how one or two rogue players can grossly distort an entire situation to everyone's detriment - whether within police departments, or a civic march.
For however many rogue police officers may be out there, and for however many protesters at last night's march through downtown Dallas who reportedly chanted "f--- the police" and "the whole system is guilty as hell," and however many people admire madmen like last night's shooter, we cannot let the rhetoric of the misled poison the nobility of those with respect for authority.
Five police officers dead. Seven more cops wounded. Two civilians shot. One gunman - who admitted wanting to kill white people - dead after being blown up by a police robot when he broke off negotiations while holed up in a parking garage. Experts are saying Dallas' death-by-police-robot is a first for our planet.
There is hatred and fear and misery here. Approximately six percent of the U.S. population are black males, yet of the nearly 1,000 unarmed men shot to death by police in 2015, forty percent were black males. That is a legitimate problem.
To explore it, and conduct a national dialog in search of a fix for it, we need clear thinking, honest introspection, relevant facts, and a desire for truth regardless of how uncomfortable it might make us, no matter our skin color, ethnicity, gender, or political persuasion.
So, without further posturing on the subject, let's identify some factors that should be considered ("victim" indicates being the subject of alleged police brutality):
- Racism within police departments; how to diagnose it, how to reduce any that exists
- Racism within policed communities; how to diagnose it, how to reduce any that exists
- The extent to which police department employees are encouraged to live in the neighborhoods they serve
- The willingness with which police officers will raise their families in the neighborhoods they serve (and if they're unwilling, why?)
- The reasons more black men don't apply for and/or meet the recruiting standards for police jobs
- Community education standards
- Economic opportunity (not just whether the victim may have a low-wage job)
- Prevalence of narcotics or alcohol
- The role "zero tolerance" drug possession laws play in permanently criminalizing somebody for what may have been a relatively minuscule amount of "youthful indiscretion" (something even the neo-conservative Koch brothers are working to revise)
- Role of the victim's father in their family
- Whether or not the victim is himself a father (and perhaps under economic strain as a provider)
- Whether or not the victim tries to flee the police
- Whether or not the victim tries to threaten the police
- Whether or not the victim follows the orders of police
- Whether or not the victim has mental or emotional problems
- Whether or not the victim has a background (either as victim or perpetrator) of family violence
- Whether or not police are aware of a suspect's handicaps (such as inability to hear, or even a limp)
- The extent to which the victim is engaged in healthy, expressive activities such as church, athletic leagues, and/or mentorship programs
- The economic, racial, and social diversity of the victim's friends, co-workers, and extended family
Unfortunately, the actual fixes, of course, will be far more difficult to achieve, since they will require some major restructuring of everything from the personal mentality of individuals involved in the rule of law (which is all of us, frankly), to the delivery of our mental health services. These are complex systems, from family dynamics to public school standards, that will defy simple political tinkering.
Indeed, can you see the point here? It's that the issue of conflict between black men and the police won't be resolved by press conferences, marches, or even sermons. Holding hands and singing Kumbaya only helps for so long.
If this conflict is going to be resolved, it will require the commitment and determination of everyone affected by it. Which directly mostly involves black men and white cops. But in reality, it includes all of us, since as this week has shown, we're all affected by it in one way or another.