Last week we had three incidents in quick order… We had a police shooting of a black man, Alton Sterling, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. We had another shooting of another black man, Philando Castile, in St. Paul, Minnesota. And, finally, we had a large-scale multiple shooting In Dallas, Texas, where a black man, Micah Johnson, killed five police officers (and wounded two others, one officer, one civilian) during an otherwise peaceful demonstration to protest unwarranted police shootings of black people. Johnson specifically targeted police only, and white police specifically, it should be noted.
These three events left me somewhat bewildered for a few days. I needed time to collect my thoughts. I refrained from jumping in the fray too soon.
I want to say upfront that I do not condone, or approve of, any of the shootings/killings in any way, shape, or form. I feel for the families and loved ones of the victims. I do not wish this on anyone. However, having said that, intellectually I can understand the Dallas incident. At least he was targeting only the specific group for which he placed blame. There is an aspect of legitimacy in that.
There is a part of me that says the Dallas police killings was a “chickens coming home to roost” scenario. When a person or group of people, in this case black men, feel pushed into a corner, and they keep seeing instance after instance of police killing black men… and, to make it worse, getting away with it in a majority of the most egregious circumstances… then what are said black men supposed to think and feel, or even do?
I’m sorry if that seems heartless, but the justice system is failing not just the black community, but especially the black community. It’s human nature that people have a breaking point.
To go off on something of a tangent, what I will never understand, and what I will always utterly reject as a valid response, is wanton rioting and looting. At that point you’re not targeting what you perceive as the ‘bad guy’. No, all you’re doing is destroying the lives and livelihoods of innocent and otherwise uninvolved people who are not related to your alleged cause. Many times, the people you’re hurting are your own friends and neighbors. In other words, you’re just being an asshole.
Anyway, back on point: What makes this particular incident even more tragic is that the Dallas Police Department is actually at the forefront in the nation for legitimate reform, and has made honest and positive strides in that regard. Unfortunately, now, those reforms may very well take a back seat, and possibly even regress. That’s a sad development for all of us.
Was Micah Johnson even aware of these reforms? Did he know that the police he was targeting was one of the better departments? I do not know the answer to that, so I cannot make a judgment in that regard, but in a sense… does it matter? It should matter, but in the overall grand scheme of things, perception often trumps reality.
As much as I feel for the victims and their families, I also feel that this should be a “wake-up call” to law enforcement all over the nation. They still need to do their job, of course, but they also need to stop arrogantly and reflexively protecting people within their own ranks when they’re bad cops. As a long-term solution, that’s what it’s going to take to earn some semblance of trust and respect back.
Until then, it’s only going to get worse.