Racism is defined as: a belief that race is the primary determination of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. Racist beliefs are not passed along through genes, they are learned at home, acquired from society, encouraged by like-minded individuals.
Look on the internet right now, turn on the television, race and inequality is one of the top discussions. Racial tension is nothing new, but portions of our society must get past the belief that says one race is inherently superior to another. I want to live in a country where as Dr. King so eloquently stated people “Will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Is that really so hard to accomplish?
Over the past several weeks I’ve read about the events in Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights and now Dallas. Let me say unequivocally any shooting of a suspect by a police officer is an extremely serious incident and should always be investigated fully and impartially. In these incidents and other cases if an officer uses lethal, or any other force found to be inappropriate, then consequences need to follow. Whether that be a reprimand or criminal charges for serious offenses. Justice should be swift. Those who willingly work in the criminal justice system must be held to the highest of standards. However, they also must be afforded certain rights as well, chief among them the ability to use force they deem necessary to protect lives, including their own. When and how they use any force can be tricky. There is no manual that can dictate how an officer should react in every scenario. At times they must use their judgment and trust their actions are the correct response given the situation they face.
Which brings me to the events last week in Texas. The killing of the five officers in Dallas was reprehensible. Officers ran towards the bullets! They defended those assembled to protest, and five of them willingly gave their lives for those expressing their first amendment right of free speech. The bravery displayed by the Dallas police force should not be maligned by a single person.
Comments I’ve read online have run the gamut. Some were uplifting and show that we can heal as a nation. Others were downright vicious, hate filled, propaganda that have no place in a civilized society. I truly believe the vast majority of our citizens want to coexist together and live in harmony regardless of skin color. After all, none of us chose what color skin we are born with, but we sure as hell can make a choice on how we act towards those who differ from us. Remember elementary school days? You wanted a friend, a playing companion. It didn’t matter if that other child was the same color as you or not. We need more childlike blindness towards color as adults.
Of course, instigators that don’t wish for unity exist on both sides. They want these violent incidents to continue, not diminish. There is a hatred and animosity in some that quite frankly will never go away. Far too often those extremists on both ends get the air time in the national and local media. We focus on them and truly miss the big picture.
I’ll freely admit I’ve never been arrested or harassed by a police officer. Every so often I get pulled over, and I put the blame squarely on my right foot, which happens to be made of lead. Have my experiences been different from others because of my skin color? I can’t say for sure, but it’s possible. What I can say unequivocally is that all men and women are created equal under the eyes of God and should be treated as such without exception. God doesn’t see through a color spectrum, and neither should we.
Police officers have a thankless job far too often. How many of us can say that every time we leave for work there’s a chance we might not make it home due to the dangers inherent in our jobs? Not many, but police officers fall into that category. Officers must be ready to respond to any number of incidents at a moment’s notice. And if they make a wrong choice, there’s a good chance we may hear about it on the news, or read about it online.
In an attempt to foster better relations amongst the community, try this little experiment the next time you see a police officer. Stop him or her, in a non-threatening way of course, and tell them “thank you” for serving the community. Let them know you appreciate them. Offer a smile, not a sneer. Some may scoff at something so simplistic but small acts of kindness can go a long way.
There is no formula or three-part process to fix the wrongs that occurred in the past and are still going on today. I would be naïve if I said I had the perfect solution. But this “us vs them” mentality cannot continue if our society is to survive. We, ALL OF US, need to treat one another with respect and dignity.
Our nation is in the crosshairs. What we need to do is stand down, take stock of who we are, what we believe, and figure out how to get past our prejudices. The choice is ours to make …