While the U.S. government and media are focusing on Ebola and ISIS as the principal external threats to our country, a potentially serious threat to public safety and domestic tranquility is growing 24/7. This threat arises from the deterioration of trust and escalating anger within African-American communities toward police, not just locally, but nationwide.
Protests against police brutality and perceived excessive use of force by police across our nation may appear to be limited only to the most vocal segment within African-American communities. However, this anger at, and distrust of, police lies like molten lava beneath the surface of many African-American communities, just waiting to erupt into violence. Only to be ignited by the latest police shooting of an African-American male.
The response and efforts to address this African-American anger at recent incidents in their communities in Missouri, Florida, New York City and elsewhere have been for civil rights and African-American political and religious leaders to intervene and try to address the various communities' concerns about the actions of their respective local police departments.
Many of these traditional African-American and religious leaders themselves are removed from the disaffected youth in these communities. They don't often understand the mindset and depth of grievances shared by the young African-American hip hop and rap generation in our communities.
Young men and women in Ferguson and elsewhere in African-American communities across our country don't need a college degree to see and understand the magnitude of police lawlessness in their communities. To them it's not very complicated. Police treat them more aggressively and forcefully -- often shooting them -- than they otherwise would do, if they were white.
These young people don't need some outside civil rights or religious leader to tell them that, more likely than not, shootings by police of African-American men within their community are racially motivated. They understand that, today in America, young black men have become an endangered species.
As I have written and spoken before, there are few issues in our history and current day-to-day lives in America that have been and are more hypocritically discussed than race and the direct and indirect consequences of the legacy of slavery and its companion ideology of white supremacy, in the past, as well today, in 21st century America.
If so, why is this? Because: "The race question is like no other in American life. From the beginning of the colonial era through the Civil War and up until today, American efforts to grapple with (or to avoid grappling with) the practical, moral, political and institutional consequences of race have shaped our political and institutional life." So said Walter Russell Meade.
Today, Jonathan Chait writes, "Race, always the deepest and most volatile fault line in American history, has now become the primal grievance in our politics, the source of a narrative of persecution each side uses to make sense of the world."
Continued as it is, the breakdown between the police and the African-American communities, may ultimately pose the more serious and immediate danger to our domestic peace and tranquility than ISIS or Ebola.
Following riots in several cities in 1968, President Johnson created a commission to study the causes. Headed by then Governor Otto Kerner of Illinois, the commission concluded:
"White racism is essentially responsible for the explosive mixture which has been accumulating in our cities since the end of World War...
To some Negroes police have come to symbolize white power, white racism and white repression. The atmosphere of hostility and cynicism is reinforced by a widespread belief among Negroes in the existence of police brutality and in a "double standard" of justice and protection--one for Negroes and one for whites."
What is really scary is the reaction, today, 46 years later, of white political leaders and police departments serving African-American communities. They are reacting like deer standing in the headlights of a car. They don't evidence any knowledge or having a clue or any understanding of the legitimacy of the grievances expressed by African-Americans in the communities they serve.
Thomas Jefferson, himself a slave owner, in commenting about slavery earlier in our country said, "I tremble for my country, when I know that God is just."
I tremble for my country when I think about what the police and the political leadership of Ferguson will say to the parents of Michael Brown, Jr and to the community in which they live, if the police officer that killed Mr. Brown is not indicted by a grand jury.
Predicable protest in reaction to such a probable non-indictment may be the spark that finally ignites a prairie fire of awakened reality by the respective state and municipal political leaders to the developing mindset of a wide cross section of persons within African-American communities across our nation: They are sick and tired of police brutality and are not going to stand still anymore and quietly accept this as an existential fact of life within their communities
There is hope however. As Dr. King so often said, "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."