I cannot believe that we need to talk about this again. On Friday, an unarmed African-American man was shot and killed by police in Tulsa, OK. In Charlotte on Monday another African-American man was shot and killed by police. In the Tulsa shooting there is clear video that shows the man with his hands up when he was shot. In Charlotte there is a conflict between the police and witnesses as to whether or not the man had a gun or a book.
The Tulsa shooting even has Donald Trump talking about being “troubled” by the shooting. But, he would not say that it was even possible he was killed simply because he was an African-American. He merely thinks the officer may have been afraid or “choked” and maybe she should not be a police officer.
Quite frankly, I haven’t heard him say much about the Charlotte shooting. The reactions of the public over the two shootings are different. In Tulsa, so far, there has been calm. In Charlotte, there has been protesting. That protesting has turned violent from time to time. Last night a man was shot during the protests. Witnesses say the man was shot by another man on the fringes of the protest who seemed to shoot randomly into the crowd. The victim is on life support.
Some people think the difference between Tulsa and Charlotte and the reaction of the public is that simple fact that Tulsa video has been released and you can see what happened. The Charlotte incident no video has been released, and quite frankly it is doubtful it will be released anytime soon, if at all. The Soviet Socialist State of North Carolina is not too friendly when it comes to releasing video of police killing the state’s residents.
After last night’s violent protests, Chairman McCrory has declared a “state of emergency” in the city. State Police and National Guard troops have been placed on alert and a curfew is “currently being seriously considered”. The Chairman is furious that there has been property damage caused by some of the protesters. He doesn’t seem to be too furious that police have killed someone of color.
The real problem is that this problem is not going to go away anytime soon either. Both sides have gathered into their opinion corners and are hurling insults and playing the “blame game”. No one really seems interested in coming to the truth of the matter, and trying to figure out a real solution.
There is a simple fact of life in America. If you are an African-American male you are three times more likely to be shot and killed by police than if you are a White American. The numbers do not lie. Police in Charlotte claim the man had a gun. They claimed that they were in danger. We don’t know because they won’t release the dash-cam or the body-cam videos.
Even if the man had a gun, so what? It is legal to carry a gun in North Carolina. Just because a man has a gun does not mean he is going to shoot the police. If that were true, why didn’t we hear about men being shot to death in Cleveland during the Republican Convention when they were walking around with open carry rifles? We didn’t hear about those shootings because they didn’t happen.
We have seen many instances when a white man with a gun was “apprehended” and not killed, while unarmed African-American men were killed. We have seen African-American men killed when they legally had a gun and even told the police they legally were carrying a gun.
Bigotry has been a problem in our country even before we became a country. Even after we won our independence from England, we continued to have slavery for over 100 years. Once the Civil War was over and slavery ended, we had Jim Crow laws for over 100 years. We have only had civil rights laws and voting rights laws for all Americans in this country for about 50 years.
There was some hope that we could put an end to this with the advent of body-cams for police. But, we have seen incidents where the camera was mysteriously not turned on before the shooting took place. We have states like the Soviet Socialist State of North Carolina pass laws that make it almost impossible to see those videos.
What most of America doesn’t know is that our Chairman and his Politburo has passed a law that requires a “court order” in order for someone to view the videos. That law takes effect on October 1. Wanna bet that the police chief in Charlotte figures out a way to withhold those videos until that date?
We also have politicians trying to make hay out of these tragedies. Trump said he is “troubled” by the shooting in Tulsa, but his answer is to initiate a nation-wide “stop and frisk” policing policy that was tried in New York City. The problem was that the police targeted African-Americans for the “stop and frisk” necessity and not many others. A Federal Judge declared the “stop and frisk” policy to be unconstitutional.
The City abandoned the policy after the ruling. Critics like Trump howled that crime would go out of control once that policy was scrapped. It didn’t. As a matter of fact, it went down not up. Now Trump wants to make it national. But, how would “stop and frisk” have prevented either of these two police shootings? It wouldn’t have.
The man in Charlotte was accidentally targeted by police. They were in the area looking for someone else they had a warrant to serve. Yet, this man was the one killed. Witnesses say he was sitting in his truck waiting for his kids to get home from school. Now he is dead.
Trump’s call for “stop and frisk” goes hand in hand with his call to start “racial profiling” in order to stop terrorism. The man has no comprehension about what our Constitution is about. It appears that way too many of our police officers don’t either.
Supporting police officers does not mean you need to support those officers who shoot unarmed people. Supporting police officers does not mean you need to blindly say that the victim “had it coming” or was “no saint” when things like this happen. We all know that the vast majority of police officers are good people who do a very dangerous job for us.
But, just look at what happened over the weekend. On Friday, an unarmed man was shot and killed by police in Tulsa. On Saturday a bomb exploded in New Jersey. Later that night another bomb exploded in New York City. On Monday the bombing suspect was apprehended by police in New Jersey. There was a “shoot out” but the suspect was “wounded” and taken into custody. Later that day, another man was shot and killed by police in Charlotte.
Can you see the differences here? In the bombing incident, professional police officers did what they needed to do to apprehend the bomber. Local, State, and Federal law enforcement officers worked together and identified a suspect. Police in New Jersey responded to a call by a citizen. They were forced to use force, but they were able to wound the suspect and apprehend him. Very professional behavior by very professional and brave police officers.
On the other hand, two people were shot and killed by police who did not display such professionalism. How is it that police officers facing down a bombing suspect known to be “armed and dangerous” can apprehend a suspect without killing him and two separate incidents have police officers killing men who are not known to be armed and dangerous?
The answer is professionalism. One of the biggest problems with our law enforcement is that there are no standards to become a police officer. Each jurisdiction has its own set of rules and “qualifications” as to what it takes to become a police officer. As I have written before, that means conflicts even between police jurisdictions.
Some police forces require a college degree to apply to become a police officer. Others only require a high school diploma. I am not saying that college makes for a better police officer, but it sure doesn’t hurt either. Some police departments have “police academies” that each candidate must pass. Others do not have such academies. In many small rural communities, all it takes to become a police officer is to be related to someone who already is.
We have had way too many such incidents. We have seen this tragedy grow and grow. We have seen the waves of protests, some turning violent, and the waves of blind “support your police” arguments. What we have not seen is a very serious discussion about the problem. What we have not seen is a very serious discussion about race in our country.
When President Obama tries to talk about race, the right-wing calls him a racist. When protest turn violent, the right-wing says “see you can’t trust them”. When someone is killed the left-wing cry about “police racism” running amuck. None of this is going to get to the heart of the problem.
We will never face up to our race problems in America until we can all agree that there actually IS a race problem in America. We will never be able to come together and find solutions to our race problems until we all recognize that we all harbor prejudice of some kind. We need a national discussion about race. We need to put an end to “the blame game” every time something happens. We need to understand that it is us, all Americans from every race, ethnicity, and religion, that are causing these problems.
When America can collectively look in the mirror and realize that the only thing we have to fear is our own bigotry, then maybe we can have that long overdue discussion about race problems in our country. When we understand that we all carry both good and evil inside our souls then maybe we can confront our problems in a rational way.
But, we must realize all of this before it is too late. We continue to see senseless tragedies like this and we continue to do nothing. We continue to see protests and say what a shame. We continue to hear the suffering of our fellow citizens but turn a deaf ear. We continue to walk through life not recognizing that the people we hurt with our inaction are our fellow citizens.
Instead of solutions we look for fault. Instead of dialogue we argue about how bad “those” are. Instead of listening to the cries of the oppressed, we talk about “racial profiling” and “stop and frisk”. We want easy answers to difficult problems. That is the only reason someone like Donald Trump could win the nomination for President from a major political party.
That is not the America I know. That is not the America I defended. America has always risen above divisiveness. It has always look for the better angels in all of us. We have reached that time when all Americans must do so again. The killings must stop. But, it can only stop when we all respect each other as people.
The irony is that communities need police to keep us safe from evil. The police need communities’ help to properly do their job. We are interconnected whether or not we like it. Communities need to respect police, and police need to respect the communities they protect. All too often we are not seeing that respect from either side.
Robert Kennedy once said: “Some people see the world as it is and ask why. I look at what the world can be and ask why not?” We are at that time in history when we need to look at a country without the race problem that has haunted us since before our founding. It won’t be easy, but it is worth the effort. Only, it will take all of us to make it happen. Instead of asking why, let us start asking why not.