As I write this Black Lives Matter demonstrations are going on from New York to Los Angeles.
Thousands of people are in the street protesting the deaths of young black men at the hands of policemen. The first causality that made the national headlines was Alton Sterling of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The following evening another black man, Philando Castile, was shot in a routine traffic stop. Two nights later, in Dallas during one of the larger protests related to the deaths of these two young black men, shots rang out and five policemen died and seven others were wounded. Just a few days later two policemen were killed in Minneapolis.
Does anyone remember Charles Manson and the Tate-LaBianka murders of the late 1960s?
Manson and his crew killed nine people in a 5-week killing spree. His manifesto said that he expected a black versus white revolution in the United States and that was the motivation for the killings, to jump-start the revolution that he called “Helter Skelter.”
Manson is still in jail serving a life sentence but, wherever he is, he is watching the TV news and smiling. Is this the Helter Skelter he envisioned? Let’s hope not.
Any death is a matter of concern. And, black lives do matter, but so do white lives, and Hispanic, Asian, and Native American. All lives matter. A part of the problem is that it was members of the police who were the instruments of death in the cases being protested. It is hard for any part of the public to deal with deaths caused by those who are supposed to protect and serve our entire population.
Some research statistics are necessary to put it all in perspective. In the most recent year’s published statistics there were 14,612 homicides in the U.S. Of these 7,387 were blacks. That is a sobering statistic when you realize that only 13 percent of the U.S. Population is black. (The U.S. is currently 16 percent Hispanic, 5 percent Asian and 61 percent white.) Thus, our black population makes up only 13 percent of the population but more than half of the homicides. And, more than 90 percent of blacks who are victims of homicides were killed by other blacks.
Before we jump to any conclusions we should look at homicides within the white community. Of the 7000-plus white citizens who were victims of homicides, 83 percent were killed by other whites. Thus, whether the person murdered is white or black that death is almost always caused by someone of the same race. By these statistics one can say that murder in America is decidedly not a matter of racial hatred.
Last year just more than 400 people were killed by the police nation-wide, 240 of those killed were from the white community. Just over 120 were black.
A part of the frustration within the group protesting is that information on the policemen involved in the deaths is not supplied. There are serious reasons for a delay in revealing information pertinent to the deaths. Premature sharing of information may jeopardize the rights of individuals involved. The police are charged with the responsibility of investigating such incidents and to reveal information prematurely may cause the case to be tried in the newspapers rather than the courts. In the end, the judicial system requires that the information gleaned from the police investigation go to the Prosecuting Attorney whose job is to ascertain whether or not laws have been broken. Still, to some such a delay looks like a cover-up is underway.
When interviewed President Barack Obama said, “When people feel they have been treated unfairly and don’t trust the police, it makes the job harder for those law enforcement officers who are doing a great job, and are doing the right thing.”
One is hard pressed to find a way through the current climate of mistrust and antagonism that exists within our country. This is a time when patience and tolerance is badly needed and for the wheels of justice to grind forward to a rightful conclusion.
Dr. Mark L. Hopkins writes for More Content Now and Scripps Newspapers. He is past president of colleges and universities in four states and currently serves as executive director of a higher-education consulting service. You will find Hopkins’ latest book, “Journey to Gettysburg,” on Amazon.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.