Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Can We Talk - Honestly?

Mayor Bill de Blasio, President Obama, Eric Holder and others have suggested we have a conversation about race relations and the police in this country. Okay, let’s talk, but let’s do it openly and honestly.  This is no time for thin skin on either side.  We must also remember that an important component of true communicaton is listening, not just talking.

I admit that I’m usually willing to give police the benefit of the doubt.  They put their lives on the line every day when they put on that uniform and go out on the streets.  When faced with tense moments that are fraught with danger, they don’t have the luxury of taking time to mull their options; they must make split-second decisions.  Sometimes those decisions have fatal consequences.

The media have attempted to lump the Ferguson, MO case with the New York case and to me they’re different.  Both involve white cops and black men who died at the hands the police, but similarities end there.   In the Missouri case, black eyewitnesses, as well as forensics, supported the narrative that Michael Brown did not have his hands raised in surrender, was not obeying the policeman’s orders and was behaving in a threatening, bullying manner.  In the New York case, it appeared to me that the police were unnecessarily rough in the treatment of Eric Garner, although perhaps I didn’t see it all. Selling individual cigarettes may be a crime, but doesn’t NYPD have more important things with which to deal?

Racism exists – there’s no denying it.  It always has and, to be realistic, it always will to one degree or another.  It’s not something that happens only in this country; it’s a world-wide phenomenon.  I happen to believe that the majority of police in this country are not racist.  However, Barack Obama and Eric Holder have huge racial chips on their shoulders, even though they are two of the most powerful men in the world.  They have not worked to improve relations between the races; they have actually stoked the fires of anger and resentment that exist in black communities, and when they speak of problems between the police and blacks, they address only one side of the equation, i.e., bias on the part of the police.

If things are to improve, both sides must recognize and be willing to accept certain responsibilities.  As far as law enforcement goes, they have a responsibility to build ties within the communities they police.  I seriously doubt that law-abiding black people want the police to disappear from their streets.  They must treat people with respect and reasonable restraint. 

 Black people also have some responsibilities.  First and foremost should be honesty in facing and dealing with the social chaos that exists in so many predominantly black communities.  Too many young black men and women are growing up without a good male role model in their lives.  I’m old-fashioned – I happen to believe that fathers are important in their children’s lives.  It’s fathers who teach boys how to be good men.  Fathers are important to daughters too; he’s the first important man in her life and has the obligation to show his daughter how good and decent men should be.  A daughter’s relationship with her father will affect her relationships with men as an adult.

We must work to ensure that equal opportunity exists for Americans of all races, but we can never assure equal outcomes.  That will require taking personal responsibility for one’s own life and being willing to work hard to achieve goals.  I’ve read several of Dr. Ben Carson’s books and one thing in particular has stuck with me:  Dr. Carson’s mother refused to allow Ben and his brother to use racism as an excuse for failure. 

There are two options:  wallow in being a victim or work to become the most excellent person you can be.  The choice is yours to make.

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