It Didn’t Have to Be This Bad


Martin Luther King Jr. would be heartbroken. The apostle of nonviolence who did so much to lift up black Americans has been succeeded by a thugocracy that expresses grievances through violence and criminal behavior. The dreamer who yearned for an America where his children would be judged not by their skin color but by the “content of their character” has been replaced by leaders aggressively promoting “identity politics.”

I remember an America of the 1950s that nobody thought was perfect, but where conditions were ceaselessly improving. America was owning up to its legacy of slavery and Jim Crow and determined to change it.

Economic conditions for black families were rapidly improving. Barriers to education, voting, and professional advancement were being swept aside. I thought myself fortunate to undoubtedly be a member of the first generation ever where race just wouldn’t matter that much.

It didn’t turn out that way, of course. Black educational and social progress stalled out as black family structure began to deteriorate about the time that the Great Society programs were initiated. Our national obsession with race intensified.

The riots were partly just opportunistic hooliganism, but they also peeled back the curtain to reveal that many black people lead lives of anger and resentment. Ironically, this comes at a time when there is less personal hostility between the races than ever.

Most people in their daily lives mingle cordially without giving it much thought. Black teachers, doctors, and other professionals function with full acceptance in multiracial environments. Interracial marriages and friendships are commonplace. Blacks occupy highly prized positions in politics, sports, entertainment, and other fields without controversy.

There is a large reservoir of mutual goodwill. But in media-world we’re all at each other‘s throats. Individual incidents of white-on-black police brutality are accorded national news status. Racism, if you’re woke enough to see it, is everywhere. Words like “merit,” “American,” and “colorblind” are on lists of racially charged taboos.

Let’s be clear. What happened to George Floyd is unforgivable. Outrage and condemnation are fully warranted.

But there’s no debate here, nobody defending the police role in the incident. People on both sides of the riot lines agree.

There’s also no question that racism exists. For that matter, to a certain extent it’s a part of the human condition that we can control but probably never eliminate entirely.

Blacks I respect report that being black in America is sometimes uncomfortable. Myself, I was born white, but I believe them, even though I can’t walk in their shoes.

We have racism on both sides, too. There’s no question that a small, despised minority of white supremacists are outright bigots. But it doesn’t feel that great to be told that as a white man, I’m automatically a racist, there’s nothing I can do about it and I should just accept the shame.

America’s cities were decimated in response to an alleged epidemic of racially biased shootings, a charge so commonly accepted that it is rarely questioned. But is it true?

A recent paper by the National Academy of Sciences confirmed many related studies, which showed that white police officers in fact don’t shoot black civilians more frequently than other races when rates of violent crime are taken into account, nor do non-white officers.

The FBI counted 7,881 black homicide victims in 2016: 223 of those were killed by police, 16 “unarmed.” A police officer was 18.5 times more likely to be killed by a black male then an unarmed black male was to be killed by a police officer.

The point is not that we don’t have problems with race and policing. Of course, we do. But we are served badly by leaders who exaggerate and stoke the fires of racial animosity for their own purposes. The mayors of New York and Atlanta both claim to fear exposing their children to murderous cops on the street.

We should be skeptical of those who insist that we think the worst possible of each other. We should give each other the benefit of the doubt instead. We should cherish what Lincoln called our “bonds of affection” which we share as Americans.

Published in Policing
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  1. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret

    Thank you.

    This needed to be said.

    Both Martin Luther King Jr and John F Kennedy  expressed their deep beliefs that within twenty years, the USA would be a color blind society.

    For a while, that seemed to be happening. For me, the late 1970’s and 1980’s were about people seriously undertaking a new role in figuring out how to work with people they had  never previously worked with. Families adjusted to their adult children marrying outside of their racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds.

    Then the Democrats jumped on the band wagon of how racist we all are, how inside every human being is a dangerous White Supremacist seeking to wreak havoc on the underclass.

    Then major bureaucracies began to flourish amidst the new EOC guidelines. Had this male boss looked a bit too long in too peculiar a manner at the new female hire? Had that African American been passed over for a promotion due to racism? There was no stopping this locomotive of administrative regulation and training bureaus. After all, the politically correct attitudes had somehow become the law.

    Like the frog in the mathematical fable teachers once joked about, who jumped in a froggy manner half way across the room, then again half the room closer, then half closer still, but never quite able to reach the other side, so too did racism become a matter wherein the slightest degree of perceived racism could stoke the flames of catastrophic protests and rioting. Because after all, a person dying of police violence in Minneapolis clearly means that we have to burn the entire structure of America to the ground. (And good riddance.)

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  2. Headedwest Coolidge

    The Great Society programs destroyed the lower end of society.  I grew up in a place where there were almost no black people, but the Great Society ruined our lower class whites.  You could sort of see the slow motion decay as the federal programs destroyed families.

    As a christian I should not say this, but I hope LBJ is in a particularly awful ring of Hades for what he did to this country.

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