Just the latest in a shooter rampage. And of course, this one at the end of a peaceful protest for Black Lives Matter, which stemmed from the killings in Baton Rouge and Minnesota of 2 black men by police.
Our cities are erupting with these protests, as in this day of social (instant) media, both shootings of the men in days prior were captured—one as it occurred, the other right after—in shocking living color, and streamed all over the world.
Not since 1968 has this country appeared so deeply divided on the issue of race.
Appearances can sure be deceiving, though, can’t they.
And as people all over spew rhetoric and blame, there seems no common ground. Even though the majority of what one sees on social media is parroted with no fact checking at all. There’s a lot of absolute falsehood propagated from both sides.
How did we get here?
For a country founded with the tenants intact of slavery, the issues goes back to our roots. All men were not in fact, in our country’s beginnings, created equal.
Complicated indeed, this race issue.
We fought a war over it.
Or did we?
Of course, the South fought the Civil War to preserve a way of life based on slave labor.
But as much as we revere Lincoln, the North didn’t fight that war to abolish slavery, which indeed provided the spark. It fought because the southern half of this country seceded.
Lincoln waged his war to preserve our Union. Although he had been working behind the scenes on the Emancipation Proclamation, he responded in 1862 in rebuttal to Horace Greely, “I would save the Union . . . If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it . . . What I do about Slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save this Union.”
Lincoln’s intent was clear.
And yes, he was successful after enormous manipulation behind the scenes, and the Emancipation Proclamation went into law.
But very little about this issue today is truly black or white. We indeed live in shades of gray.
Complicated, this race issue.
The symptoms, of course, are starkly divided. But again, the roots run silent and deep. And erupt in pockets, loud on the brittle surface of a tenuous peace.
If this weren’t so, the vitriol from both sides wouldn’t erupt—swift and sure and bloody—with each new bitter conflict.
The powder keg needs a simple spark in order to blow apart.
On the one side, some people point to Ferguson two years ago, and yell that the officer acted in self-defense. A grand jury agreed. And indeed, it appears so from the video. But in a community that has felt persecuted for decades, this was seen as just one more example of police brutality, of racist cops. Odd how, as well, the department there didn’t look like its residents . . .
Former Mayor NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani said on Meet the Press after the Ferguson incident, “I find it very disappointing that you’re not discussing the fact that 93 percent of blacks in America are killed by other blacks . . . White police officers won’t be there if you weren’t killing each other 70 percent of the time.”
Enough holes exist in that statement to derail this blog, so I’ll just leave that as it is. But good grief, white-on-white murder rates are almost that high.
We all know the statistics. Approximately 12–13% of the American population is African-American, but they make up 35% of jail inmates, and 37% of prison inmates of the 2.2 million male inmates as of 2014 (U.S. Department of Justice, 2014). And of course we could go on with these. But just that is enough for here.
I have friends in law enforcement. They’re good people. They have tough, wickedly scary jobs, their lives in danger every day as they leave for work.
I don’t know about you, but my work life doesn’t bring me to death’s door each day. Nor do I live where violent crime is the norm. I live, literally, in a different world.
A dear friend of mine, a former major-city investigator, distraught about Dallas, told me that his partner died in his arms. Each and every one of these incidents where policemen are killed, cuts him to the core.
Emotions run pervasive and deep . . .
Another friend, an activist who has marched in Dallas many times, said that the Dallas police always marched with them. No riot gear. Just officers trying to protect the people and their rights to freedom of speech.
An African-American woman, in the midst of this standoff and its chaos, who had marched in the protest, talked about how it had been so peaceful. And yes, she was there to enforce the idea that Black Lives Matter.
She ended with, “But our police (the Dallas force) didn’t do anything wrong. They haven’t done this.”
This isn’t to say that Dallas is pristine on race relations. Not at all. We’ve surely had our problems.
But Police Chief David Brown—an African-American—and Mayor Mike Rawlings—an Anglo—have worked diligently to improve relations between police and the community. Especially the inner-city community, and places ridden with crime.
They have done a spectacular job handling this crisis. As they have been doing for years.
Complaints against excessive force by police are down 2/3 since Brown came into leadership. The overall crime rate in Dallas is down to a 50-year low. And we could continue on with similar statistics.
The point being that Dallas’ diligence on race and police issues has been quite effective.
So the question remains—what do we do about all of this?
The first thing is to stop digging the hole. Which of course, just means for both sides of onlookers to quit spewing hate, almost all of which has no basis in fact. Again, the ignorance of actual facts on social media is astonishing.
It’s almost impossible to find common ground when you’re shooting at ghosts.
So many of the recent mass murders—for a plethora of causes—have been committed by people of all colors, who had previously demonstrated mental illness or violent tendencies. But we can’t talk about that, can we.
One way or another, though, the hate-filled rhetoric stirs them into insanity.
Mental illness and fire power are always such a lovely alliance.
That combination is the elephant in the room. Perhaps if we can one day sit calmly and talk, we can face it.
Isn’t it funny how politicians blame the media for our divide? When the media is reporting (albeit, ad naseum), all of this. And quite often, they’re showing the intolerance and hatred spewing out of the mouths of politicians in the first place.
Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, a scant day after this incident, blamed the Black Lives Matter movement for the shooting. He followed up with: “All those protesters last night, they ran the other way, expecting the men and women in blue to turn around and protect them,” Patrick said. “What hypocrites!”
Real helpful. At times, it is embarrassing to be from Texas.
But more to the point, such rhetoric makes it quite difficult to find common ground.
Which is, after all, the true insanity.
We hear both sides yelling that they won’t compromise their values.
Well, who, exactly, is asking them to?
When we boil these issues down to their essence, don’t we all want the same thing?
I live in the country, and I’m just about the only Anglo in my neighborhood. Everyone else is pretty much a shade of brown to black. And you know, I don’t even think about it unless contemplating something like this.
Funny thing, the longer you live around people who “look” different, the less you notice any differences.
Because all of these are good, hard-working, family folks.
We take care of each other. When little Alex from across the street brought his Chihuahua over, its leg dangling in the wind, for me to heal (because of course, I am the dog lady), crocodile tears streamed down his face. Although the family works very hard, they didn’t have the dollars for extra expenses, out of the blue.
And of course, I couldn’t stand seeing sweet Alex cry, so I had my vet set the broken leg, and tend to the follow up as well.
So incredibly thankful, Alex’s mother now feeds me. Literally. And often.
I got the far better end of the deal.
And I don’t even want to think what I’d do if not for Frank and Lupe next door . . .
And all these shades of skin color in my neighborhood, well, funny enough, we all want the same things. We all have fears (and yes, for many of these boys I’ve watched grow into young men, I fear daily for them as they go out into this world). We all bleed when cut. We all love deeply, profoundly, and want what is best for our families.
Please—don’t talk to me about Family Values as if half the country doesn’t have them.
It’s not that our values are different.
For any of us. We have differences of opinion on how to best affect the successful implementation of the laws and policies that uphold these values. But our values are the same. That is Truth.
I often read and listen to folks who see things quite differently from how I do. Decades ago, I heard the political columnist George Will—with whom I rarely agree, although sometimes do, but who always make me think—say that the beauty of this country—indeed, what has made it great—is our ability to compromise.
It is how this country has functioned and thrived for 240 years. It is the very essence of what has made us great.
Until somehow, over the past decade and a half, we’ve lost that ability for conciliation.
Indeed, the very idea of compromise is now seen as weakness. Just ask our Congress.
The very thing that made us great, which is at the very root of who we are, has been turned into a negative.
One of the most important distinctions to come out of the Civil War was and is a change in the verb used after United States.
Before the War, we would say, “The United States are . . .”
After the War, we say, “The United States is . . .”
Although this seems like a simple thing, the ramifications were and are huge.
We became one family, one people, one Union.
Like any family, we have issues with one another. Like in any family, some just don’t like others very much.
But as in any healthy family, we co-exist anyway.
Do we want to be healthy? Do we want to stop the madness?
It requires a bit of respect for those we see as different. To realize that we might look diverse, but we all bleed red.
So, I, too, am heartbroken over the events of the last week, the last months, the last years. Heartbroken for those on both sides of this insidious issue, and for everybody in between.
But what I know for true is that we can solve these problems.
It takes ears to listen with.
It takes hands being sat on if need be in order not to point fingers; tongues to be bitten bloody so as not to spew hate.
It takes a willingness and action to disseminate the facts from the fiction.
It takes a want to.
And it takes enormous courage to tackle the beasts, the most fearsome of which lie within our own breasts.
Shun the hate mongers. Listen to the rational voices. Support the oppressed. Understand why they feel the way they do—I can guarantee you it’s not something they made up. Support law enforcement—the vast majority of whom are good, hard-working folks—all over the country but especially in Dallas this day. They lost family.
As Chief Brown said on Monday, “Get involved. Be part of the solution. We’re hiring.”
By Tuesday, applications to DPD surged.
The young men killed last week have families who grieve. So do the Dallas police officers.
In the end, we are all the family who grieves.
Yes, a complicated issue, indeed.
But we can stop the insanity.
Are we willing?
Award-winning writer and editor Susan Mary Malone is the author of the novels, "I Just Came Here to Dance" and "By the Book," as well as four co-authored nonfiction books, including "What’s Wrong with My Family?" and many published short stories. Forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to traditional publishers.