We have reached the tipping point



Recent events in the United States have gotten us all to thinking about the important issue of race relations. Ever since the first amphibians crawled out of the muck and into their individual caves, people have fallen victim to the concept of “us vs. them.” The idea that “They’re not like us, they’re different, let’s attack them,” has become ingrained in human thinking. In large part, it explains why we go to war. It also explains why differences in our skin color seem to matter to people, particularly the white population. We live in a country where, less than 200 years ago, people with darker skins were imported to be used as slaves and then, after a brutal civil war at least partly over emancipation, we kept those very people who had been enslaved as economic serfs.

If Lincoln had lived, maybe things would have turned out differently but after his assassination there really was no hope. If, because of a little bit more pigment in the skin, a huge population is devalued and kept from letting their potential take them to the top of the economic and social ladder, there will be the very strife over race that we are experiencing big time right now in this country.

“Black Lives Matter” comes directly out of police-black confrontations, some of which show just how unjust the legal system can be. If you are white, try to imagine yourself in the place of a person of color, experiencing harassment for “driving while black” or simply walking in a neighborhood where blacks don’t live.

Keeping black people in a subjugated world does not come without paying a price. We all know about anger and its manifestations. I get to work at 4 in the morning. The other day a man on a bicycle was doing loops in the middle of the road and when he saw me on the deserted street he came right at me as I walked toward my door and screeched his bike right in front of me. I was pretty frightened. I am not a cop. I did not have a gun. We ask our police to be out there to protect us but we expect them to be able to safely subdue and control people who may pose a threat. We don’t expect them to shoot first and ask questions later.

It is not surprising that the law enforcement community forms what we refer to as the “thin blue line.” Cops don’t tell on each other. They are just as scared (maybe more so) than those who face criminal behavior on the street as they go about their business. But they are supposed to be professionals. They absolutely have to be trained to exercise restraint. They should not shoot until they see a weapon. If they see a fellow officer commit a crime, they should be trained to report it immediately, which is easier said than done. Unless changes are made, we’ll see more and more incidents of racial strife. Just imagine if your teenager were to be killed by a trigger-hungry officer. Would anything ever console you?

Things have come to a tipping point. Hey, I want my cops out there protecting me, but I want and expect professional behavior from them and that is a very fine line. In the meantime, let’s be sure that a black child has the same chance in our still very segregated schools that a white child has. The more tense things become, the more we will see situations such as the tragedy in Dallas.

This is not easy. People want and deserve protection, but as long as race is the great dividing line, and as long as we keep people in economic subjugation, we will continue to experience the kind of troubles we have seen in the last several months.