As long as the privileged aren't confronted with crime, poverty, economic deprivation or racism, it's far too easy to wash their hands of a responsibility all Americans should share, a more just society.
The horrors of the past few days in Baton Rouge, Minnesota, and Dallas ring across America like the "fire bell in the night" that Thomas Jefferson said "awakened and filled [him] with terror" in 1820.
What seems evident in the two most recent cases is cops reacting to fear. Their own fear for their own lives. With so much fear, so much panic, they over-react by shooting to kill, without thought to any other de-escalation methods or weapons.
Aside from the similarities in the sheer volume of blacks killed by police and those lynched decades before, there remain other staggering parallels between police killings and lynchings.
Our cultural biases often make it difficult to see the prevailing side of an argument, especially when it's political in nature. Most of us inherit our politics from parents, peers, and social structures. When disagreement ensues, we tend to dig in our heels instead of trying to see the other person's point of view.
My daddy died in January 2013, and one of the last things we talked about was the Chicago police. He was an optimistic man with a fierce passion for social justice, but after a protracted debate with an ultra-idealistic me, he shouted, "Marilyn, don't you know that the police is the biggest gang in the city?"
"Step out of the car nice and slow" "Don't make any sudden moves" "Put your hands in the air" "Resist and you will loose"
This #BlackLivesMatter movement was not the result of a mandate by Congress or laws set forth by State governments. It is merely a fierce grassroots movement that has created enormous awareness to a series of incidents that have involved police shootings and unarmed black males.
The rapid explosion of cell phones, YouTube and Twitter has increased public awareness of police misconduct toward black citizens. As a result, white attitudes are changing and protests led by black activists are accelerating. This may be a moment in our history when real reform is possible.
In this generation, simply sending out a tweet with a trending hashtag is lazy, disingenuous and ill-conceived in generating momentum for a movement. A well-timed status update largely does nothing other than trick the person into believing he/she has done their part in the struggle.
From the moment those lights start flashing and that siren goes off, we're all in the same boat: we must pull over. However, it's what happens after you've been pulled over that's critical.
The job we ask police to do today annihilates the principle of the Fourth Amendment. Regardless of statutes and Supreme Court rulings, police surveilling all of society all of the time is as unreasonable a search as there ever was. Only decades of becoming accustomed to the idea allows us to see it any other way.
As the Charleston community comes together in mourning, it is important to also come together to reflect on how such a tragedy could happen in the first place, and what must be done at a larger, societal level to prevent this from happening again.
We tell our children that everyone makes mistakes, but that isn't true. The truth is, if you're an affluent caucasian in America, you are afforded the ability to claim confusion or a temporary lapse in judgment.
If we all are supposed to feel safer -- if crime rates are lower and people of all colors are supposed to be equal -- how can the force that's supposed to protect Americans be damaging such a large segment of our population?
My cop friends tell me that in addition to institutional biases that can't be minimized, training is often antiquated and premised on the days of being "tough on crime," once the only approach to policing. Assuming my officer friends are correct, we can expect more incidents like Charlena Cooks', and that things will get worse before they get better.