18 Jul WE’VE ALL GOT WORK TO DO
Far too many interactions between law enforcement and men and women of color have ended senselessly and tragically as the problems continue to persist while we seem to be getting further and further away from the solution.
From the fatal police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri to the “chokehold” that left Eric Garner uttering his last words, “I CAN’T BREATH”, ALL BECAUSE HE WAS selling single cigarettes from packs without TAX STAMPS–the narrative changes, but the outcome remains the same, and we are left pondering how a black woman can be pulled over for a minor traffic violation and end up dead in a jail cell; or why police responded with excessive force to a twelve-year-old black boy with a toy gun, killing the young man within two seconds of arriving on the scene.
Then there is Philando Castile, pulled over for a routine traffic stop, seemingly doing everything right, only to be gunned down in front of his girlfriend and four-year-old daughter; and Alton Sterling, killed after police were responding to a report that a man selling CDs used a gun to threaten someone outside a convenience store.
The shootings led to protests all over America, and arguably played an indirect role in the deadly attacks that took the lives of five Dallas, Texas officers, and three Baton Rouge, Louisiana officers. Enough.
In the midst of these great tragedies that have left our communities broken and our trust in question, I believe these challenges offer an opportunity to help bridge the divide; and while many are dominated by fears and prejudices, We’ve got to find common ground.
It takes courage for all of us to find common ground.
We all must accept the fact that police are human too, and will almost certainly make mistakes, and while an encounter with law enforcement may be uncomfortable, rude or unprofessional, it’s not necessarily because of racism.
That being said, we must duly understand why why blacks might be distrustful or fearful when encountering an officer given the extensive history of police violence against African-Americans — without prosecution— should not be easily dismissed.
It saddens me to accept the fact that Americans’ opinions about policing are severely divided along racial lines:
“In a nationwide poll last summer by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs, 81 percent of black Americans said police are too quick to use deadly force, compared with 33 percent of whites. A third of blacks said they trust police to work in the best interest of the community, less than half the percentage of whites.”
While a conservative political commentator noted that officers told him “we feel like people want to kill us”, a progressive commentator responded, “If, to both sides, it seems that the world is misunderstanding them, it’s a good time to say let me open my heart … listen to the pain of the law-enforcement community, listen to their fear, their sense of being labeled and wronged and misunderstood. Listen to those African-American kids. They can’t take off their badge, they can’t take off their uniform, but they still feel like they’ve got a target on their back because of their skin color … there’s now enough pain in both communities that we should be able to understand each other.”
This is what finding common ground is all about. Finding the courage to have tough conversations amongst differing communities in hopes of understanding each other better. As the son of the late Staff Sgt. Rudolph Blackman who served as a United States Army Ranger, my father always reminded me that, “tough times don’t last, tough people do”. While we are living in challenging times within our nation, we must be reminded of the phrase on the Seal of the United States of America, E pluribus unum “Out of many, one”, not limiting this meaning to “out of many states, emerges a single nation”, but rather, “out of many peoples, races, religions, languages, and ancestries has emerged a single people and nation”; remembering the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”