There have been so many tragic news stories this week that we need a scorecard to keep up.
The problem is that we are all losing.
Do you know how hard it is to be a police officer?
I have never worked in law enforcement, but as a journalist I have worked with law enforcement for more than two decades. We have all seen the stories about officers who were in otherwise routine settings whose lives were ended or forever altered by criminals who caught them off guard.
There is no easy traffic stop. No situation is easy to resolve. At any moment, the least likely suspect could be the one who kills you.
That is tough.
I have personally known deputies who were shot during traffic stops. One of my good friends was almost killed by a criminal he was trying to apprehend. I recently stood for hours watching a group of officers put themselves at risk in order to keep a suspect safe — the same suspect who had allegedly shot at other officers during a chase before being pinned down in a shed behind a home.
One of my friends who works as a police officer in Kansas explained a lot Friday morning.
He is asked why he continues to wear a badge when he is underpaid, deals with the worst criminals, delivers horrible news to families and sees horrific things in his line of work only to see other officers killed in Dallas simply because of their profession.
“When they ask why, I tell them it’s because of love,” he said. “Because I love all of you, I will go to work even today in hopes that I can protect you from the evil of this world.”
Being a police officer is a tough job. A lot of people can’t handle tough jobs. Those cops who fought with and killed a man in Baton Rouge, Louisiana did not show what I expect when people describe great police work. The officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota who shot a man in his car while a toddler was in the back seat appeared to be among the most skittish and least professional officers I have ever seen in action.
But the cops who were shot and killed in Dallas weren’t in that group. They were the ones keeping their city safe. They were protecting the protesters and even supporting them.
Now five of them are dead and seven others are hurt. Shooting the good guys doesn’t get rid of bad guys. It’s a foolish response. It is criminally counterproductive.
These officers who shot and killed people when it wasn’t necessary are probably not even racists in the typical sense. They aren’t white supremacists. I’m sure they work with black friends and they might have grown up loving some black people as much as anyone else in their lives.
They appear to be victims of a more subtle yet equally dangerous racism.
I have two sons. One is a white child who came to my family by birth. One is black and he came to us through an adoption from Ethiopia.
In a few years, they will both be teenagers. If Blake walks through a neighbor’s yard on his way home, he will be seen as a kid walking home. If Dawit walks the same path to the same home in the same neighborhood, are those neighbors going to wonder what he stole?
This is a time to mourn together. We should mourn two killings that appear to be unjust. We should also mourn deeply that people who protect us are targets of senseless violence.
There is a racial divide in this country. We need a movement. It doesn’t have to be a civil rights movement. Minority rights aren’t the issue today.
Minority acceptance is. We have to stop living in an “us and them” world.
Martin Luther King Jr. put his finger on a big part of the problem when he wrote his letter from a Birmingham, Alabama jail.
“I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate…” King wrote. “Who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season.’ Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
We need black leadership to rise up like Leonce Crump who pastors Renovation Church in Atlanta. His Twitter feed has the feel of a man who is ready to be a leader in the project to build a bridge over America’s racial divide.
“There will be a call to action soon. It will affect every sphere: Political, social, market, and religious. Engage it fully,” Crump said. “Point to the sin of systemic racism, not just individual racism. And show the gospel’s implications there.”
But Crump also discussed one of the worst kept secrets of American race relations. One of the most segregated times of the week is Sunday morning. How can we expect to unify society as a whole when people who share core religious beliefs can’t even sit together on a church pew?
“Refuse to participate in sinful homogeny posing as benign preferences, especially in your choice of church and community,” Crump said. “This is a start. But most of all, when called upon to engage, in seeing legislation change, and seeing the church finally step in. Respond.”
We do need black leaders to stand up. But more than that, we need white leaders to stand with them. We need to stand together to solve this issue.
Until we can see each other as equals, we can’t treat each other equally.
That isn’t a problem for politicians, preachers and patrolmen to solve. We all have to work together — equally.
Kent Bush is publisher of Shawnee (Oklahoma) News-Star and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.