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Racial Healing Requires Seeing the Bigger Picture

13 July 2016

Given the troubled state of race relations in America and our ongoing total failure to address this matter in a productive manner, we are at a time that “requires seeing the bigger picture.” This column explores the magnitude of our situation and shares some likely causes. Maybe discussion of solutions will come in future columns.

The severity of our failure is all around us. For instance, on 8 July 2016, a black gunman shot and killed five white police officers in Dallas and wounded nine police and civilians. After hours of negotiations with the shooter failed to make progress, a robot was sent to his location with an explosive that was detonated leading to his death. Following are portions of comments made on Facebook by Reverend Curtis Gatewood, a field director for North Carolina Branch of the NAACP.  The quote here is from an article titled “You Won’t Believe What This NAACP Leader Said About The Dallas Cop Killer. It’s Infuriating” by Amanda Prestigiacomo:

“Again, this is an instance where a Black man was murdered at a point where patience (since he had obviously been blocked off from other people) and the deescalation [sic] of the situation could have provided the opportunity to bring him in alive for questioning and his day in court.”

“Make no mistake, by taking this Black ‘suspect’ and demonizing and using a killer robot to blow him up in this unprecedented and barbaric manner and without a trial in a court of law is the truest and most literal example yet of a ‘high-tech lynching’”

For a man in position to dramatically influence the thinking of others, the mindset revealed in these comments reflects the depth of the racial divide in America and the questionable if not irrational thinking that feeds it. A man kills five innocent people and wounds nine others. Gatewood and many others would have the lives of additional police officers put at risk while claiming this action was not taken because the killer was black.

Add to this the lawlessness that is allowed and even excused by some in the name of permitting people to protest what they perceive as acts of racism. Protesters block streets, attack police officers, loot businesses, even burn businesses. Then there is the killing of innocent police officers not only in Dallas but in other American cities. On 17 July I walked in from church to hear the report of police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana being called for assistance at a location only to have three officers killed and three wounded. It was an assassination.

It is in this context of race-related thoughtlessness and lawlessness that I argue Americans as a whole and individually must see the bigger picture regarding what is going on. If done, we will come face-to-face with some uncomfortable truths.

Among the truths discovered would be abuse of statistics in making the argument that black males are under attack by police officers. An article by Aaron Bandler titled  “5 Statistics You Need To Know About Cops Killing Blacks” uses research done by Heather MacDonald to address this often repeated inaccurate claim. Here is an enlightening quote from the article:

Cops killed nearly twice as many whites as blacks in 2015. According to data compiled by The Washington Post, 50 percent of the victims of fatal police shootings were white, while 26 percent were black. The majority of these victims had a gun or ‘were armed or otherwise threatening the officer with potentially lethal force,’ according to MacDonald in a speech at Hillsdale College.”
“Some may argue that these statistics are evidence of racist treatment toward blacks, since whites consist of 62 percent of the population and blacks make up 13 percent of the population. But as MacDonald writes in The Wall Street Journal, 2009 statistics from the Bureau of Justice Statistics reveal that blacks were charged with 62 percent of robberies, 57 percent of murders and 45 percent of assaults in the 75 biggest counties in the country, despite only comprising roughly 15 percent of the population in these counties.”

Couple MacDonald’s findings with the high arrest resistance rate among blacks and a picture emerges that is not convenient for those who press the argument of rampant racism among police officers. In the article “African Americans cited for resisting arrest at high rate in S.F.,” Emily Green writes, “African Americans in San Francisco are cited for resisting arrest at a rate eight times greater than whites even when serious crimes are not involved, according to statistics drawn from court records.” San Francisco is not an abnormality in this regard. The bottom line is cops go where crime is happening and respond to the situations presented. These statistics indicate they spend far more time in black neighborhoods than in others and are faced with conditions that foster greater potential for undesired outcomes. This is not to say police officers are perfect, but it does present a need for dealing with what is really indicated by the statistics. That is, blacks commit more crimes.

Given the picture painted so far, how is it anybody expects a police officer to approach a black person and not have a greater level of fear for his or her personal safety than when approaching a person in the other groups? That is, groups who do not show the attitude of Curtis Gatewood mentioned in opening, are not statistically likely to commit a crime or resist arrest, and have no track record of killing innocent cops? Seeing the bigger picture should cause one to recognize as unreasonable the expectation that police officers should feel equally safe no matter who they approach.

Media bias in favor of liberal policies and ideology must also be recognized as contributing to debilitating racial tension in America. An example of how this condition is manifested shows in CNN’s Wolf Blitzer interviewing Anna Garnese, a white female. She is a teacher at the school where Philando Castile worked. Castile, a black male, was shot and killed during a vehicle stop by a white police officer in Minnesota on 6 July 2016. Garnese talks about him positively as a person, but Blitzer leads her to recount being stopped by police for a broken tail light. She reports it was an uneventful exchange between her and the officer. Having told the officer she was getting it fixed, he let her go. Garnese’s concluding comment regarding her treatment is, “I know for a fact it’s because of the way I look.” Blitzer’s interview pressed the narrative that here is another innocent male killed by a white cop because the victim is black. Then he leads Garnese to reinforce that narrative by having her rehearse her experience and declaring the difference in treatment was strictly based on race. Please watch the interview at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJMuhoufmMw

My problem with what happens here is Blitzer and Garnese totally disregard all of what justifiably might go on in an officer’s head when approaching a black person, especially a male. Liberal media, Garnese and too many others across this nation hold that a police officer should approach a black male with the same sense of safety as approaching a white lady who follows instructions. “Give me a break.” This is blatant media bias that contributes mightily to the racial tension in this nation.

I have only scratched the surface of the uncomfortable truths to be faced by “seeing the bigger picture” regarding the sad racial climate in this nation. I did not get to the negative influence of organizations such as Black Lives Matter or the horrific consequences of a president and others of influence who, long before the facts are known, declare shootings of blacks by white police officers the result of racism. On the other hand, there is the hypocrisy of that response when a black man kills five white police officers and states he “wanted to kill white people, especially white officers,” but President Obama simply declares the black killer “demented.” The listing of uncomfortable truths is almost endless.

The good news is that if we “see the bigger picture” regarding race in America, there is hope. We, individually and as a nation, might then see beyond our restricted views. A Facebook post by a young black lady sheds some light on how this process might look as it plays out. She dared see and feel beyond her restricted view to the bigger picture:

“My mind was already soooo cluttered and I haven’t been able to get any order to my thoughts. Then I had the random opportunity to be a fly on the wall in a courthouse breakroom with a group of officers. Hearing them talk about their fears and changes that need to be made to protect them from societal unrest made my already aching heart hurt even more. I just wanted to hug them and thank them for the sacrifices they make on a daily basis and acknowledge that everyone doesn’t believe them to all be bad. Instead all I could do was hang my head and walk out because I’m so sad for this country.”

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