Musings from outside the mainstream.
I have an acquaintance who is a former sheriff who worked in the area between the suburbs and the city. Over the course of thirty years he saw the city encroach on the suburb and observed affluence and poverty collide. He retired to a nice little college town, where he’s not so invested in ensuring a peaceful outcome between disparate communities.
He’s part of a casual group that meets for coffee, camaraderie and conversation. We discuss things of minor and major import. Usually, we’re pretty jocular, but there is one thing he repeats in all earnestness whenever cultures clash and issues of inequity become the topics of conversation, he says “The mansions are going to burn.”
I thought of this statement again when the recent shootings by cops of black men in Baton Rouge and St. Paul were followed by the apparent reaction of the murders of 5 police officers in Dallas, Texas.
And I wonder if there’s more to come of the later, for we know the rate of the former has not decreased.
Despite the steady stream of videos of cops using deadly force to take the lives of black men for minor crimes or no crime at all, we have not seen much change. It is true that others die needlessly, this is not just a “black thang,” but there can be no denying or sidestepping the disparity:
We must respond with action and change. So it is painfully ironic that this attack against police officers happened in Dallas, a police department that has been on the forefront of change. In 2010 sheriff David Brown ushered in a new era. In 6 years Brown has fired 70 officers, often explaining why. In 2014 the Dallas Police Department began listing officer involved shootings on it’s website. Procedures like this have lead to excessive force complaints dropping by 64 percent over a five-year period.
This is precisely what other police departments need to do: be more transparent and weed out the cops with proven records of instability, poor judgement and excessive force. In short, be accountable to the people you serve.
But that’s only one part of the story.
We must address a host of opportunity inequities such access to safe housing, good schools and decent jobs. Without opportunity we see compounded financial inequities that have led to high concentrations of poverty and the separation of class that so frequently breaks down along the lines of race.
And with that separation; fear of the other and the unknown.
We have to address more than breaking down the Blue Wall of Silence. We must also seek a more equitable distribution of this nation’s wealth. We must elect officials who are not in the pocket of special interests, such as the NRA, to martial meaningful legislation on gun control. And we must not let the extremes define us.
We need to lift everybody up, and we need to do this soon. Or, I fear, more than the mansions will burn.