Another black man was shot and killed by a white police officer — this time in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Another family has a hole blown in it.
Another officer will live the rest of her life dealing with the fact that she shot an unarmed man because of how he looked. He was big, black and scary even with his hands in the air. Would he have died if he were white? There is no way to answer that. It is impossible to know with certainty.
The problem isn’t as simple as black and white. You don’t have to research black-on-black crime statistics or filter the facts to protect the officer from the backlash from her actions to be a supporter of the police.
You don’t have to hate the police or protest during the National Anthem to believe that these shootings of unarmed black men by the people paid to protect them is more than a mere coincidence and a problem that we can seek to solve.
You can love the police and believe that they are heroes and still understand that there is something more than a mere statistical anomaly to explain why so many unarmed black people have been killed by officers.
There are similarities beyond skin color in these incidents. The victims usually resisted officers in some way. That is naturally going to raise tensions.
Even though examinations after the incidents showed the men were unarmed, that fact never seems to be clear until after the dust settles and it is too late to matter.
In order to harbor a fear of black people in general, your life has to be devoid of significant relationships with people of other cultures or racial backgrounds. If you only spend time with wealthy suburban families, people who live in poverty will make you uncomfortable. If you only interact with people who live, act, work and worship like you then you can fall prey to fear when you are forced into a situation where you come into contact with square peg people who don’t fit into your circle of friends.
We aren’t yet equal and we aren’t all treated equally. I have one white son and one black son and the amount of time I spend worrying about how society will treat them is certainly not equal. If an officer sees my son Blake walking down a street they will see him as a kid on his way home from work. When they see Dawit, some will see him like the officer in the helicopter saw Terence Crutcher in Tulsa — “that looks like a bad dude.”
The officer in the helicopter could spot that from hundreds of feet in the air. That confirms every fear black people have when dealing with the police.
Until we tear down walls between cultures, stereotypes and fear will continue to make reconciliation a bridge too far for communities of color and police.
We can’t keep living segregated lives and expect to come together as a country.
Fear fades with familiarity.
It takes work. The effort has to be real and effective. Both sides have to move toward the middle if common ground will be found.
We need religious, political, cultural and law enforcement leaders to stand up and make it happen
Even as you show concern about killings that appear to be unjust, remember to support the vast majority of officers who take their charge to protect every person regardless of race seriously.
The other option is to turn the other way and hope it doesn’t happen again.
However, hope is not a strategy. If we want the narrative to change, we have to create a different story to tell.
Kent Bush is publisher of Shawnee (Oklahoma) News-Star and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.