The problem stems from the fact that when the victim is Black, no matter the race or gender of the police officer or the facts surrounding the case, the end result is an eruption of protests which soon devolve into riots and looting. People are hurt, property destroyed, and in a few recent incidents Police Officers have been targeted and shot.
No one can blame the Black community for reacting to violence perpetrated against them. Ours’ is an unfortunate history of discrimination. But throwing stones, looting stores, burning cars, and blocking highways are neither a solution nor an educated response. Lawlessness and chaos reigns during such incidences which achieves little but feed the fears and anxiety of law abiding citizens. Such actions only serve to further divide us.
What we are watching is the disintegration of law and order in our cities. The underlying cause is not limited any shooting that incites a protest. The protests are a symptom of a far deeper problem. Too many young people, Black and White alike, feel frustrated and hopeless. The economic opportunities our generation took for granted no longer exist.
This is especially the case in our Black communities. Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced during the 2015 Martin Luther King remembrance address that in New Orleans the unemployment rate among young Black males age 14-24 is 52%. How can they participate in life pleasures? What have they to lose? Why should they respect a society of which they are not a part? Why should they respect property when they have none of their own?
In the words of Lord Randolph Churchill: “If you want a conservative democrat, give a man something to conserve.”
What is required is a unified effort on all levels, federal and local, to address these underlying problems and alleviate them. America has to find meaningful employment for its growing population. That is where the President comes in. Our nation is in crisis and President Obama has not taken to the airways to urge calm. If ever there was a time for leadership…it is now.
The President took an oath of office to uphold the Constitution. A component of living up to that oath is to guarantee that ALL Americans experience “domestic tranquility” and share in “EQUAL protection under the law.” That means that the unarmed victim of a police shooting deserves respect and justice. Focus has to be on restraint. It also means that a police officer who protects himself from an armed assailant has the right to have his/her case investigated BEFORE any action is taken. That means that the officer and citizens have to be protected from violent protests.
This is not happening today. What is happening on the streets of American cities is tantamount to a lynching. Some citizens, influenced and organized through social media, determine the guilt of an officer with no evidence, investigation, or legal determination of guilt. Too often peaceful demonstrations have been high jacked by subsidized iterant activists whose sole purpose is to terrorize communities. This is not acceptable behavior.
President Obama was elected because Americans knew our nation had issues regarding race… a long legacy of injustices. It was hoped that having an African-American President would help resolve these simmering problems by providing him with a commanding role whereby he could seek peaceful resolutions through the law to any emerging crises. He promised as much in his book “The Audacity of Hope”.
Mr. Obama’s voice demanding civil rights for all would be a far more powerful clarion than that of even Dr. Martin Luther King, because while Dr. King spoke from moral authority, Mr. Obama speaks from the office of the President.
Sadly, as cities have burned, police officers and protesters hurt, and private citizens terrorized this President has said very little.
It is past time for President Obama to take the “bully pulpit” of a national address urging calm and assuring that civil rights will be guaranteed to all equally. A statement from him sending a strong message calling for national unity and a cooperative effort to address this growing crisis is needed. A word from him would be respected by all.
Additionally, we as a nation, have to examine carefully our current social and economic situation with an eye towards finding the means of making the American Dream achievable by all who seek it. Our present situation is untenable. Democracy cannot thrive in a society divided by wealth, opportunity, and race.
If ever there was a time when true leadership and guidance is needed it is now...during these turbulent times. The captain of the ship must take the helm in stormy seas.
Ron Chapman is a columnist, businessman and university instructor in St. Bernard Parish