Our nation has been rocked by three separate disturbing episodes. In Ferguson, New York City, and Cleveland, subjects being apprehended by the police were killed under questionable circumstances. The national protests that followed reveal many Americans are not satisfied with how the justice system dealt with these situations.
Our democracy is a "government of the people, by the people, for the people." The strength of the protests calls into question whether those in authority are truly representing the will of the people. I am reminded that the Civil Rights and Viet Nam War protests of the '60s and '70s brought about major changes in government policy. Today's protests should do the same.
Above all, there must be sacredness of human life. A standard obviously needs to be firmly reestablished nationally that a criminal/suspect is killed only in an absolutely life-threatening situation. This includes the possibility of trying to wound/disable a threatening subject.
Since a serious standard would place a heavier burden of decision on the police, a heavier penalty should be placed on those who disobey an officer's verbal command, thus providing a clearer step preceding physical confrontations. This would also require an important discipline on officers' commands.
However, there is a very profound Black-White issue that someday must be addressed at its roots.
Speaking bluntly, a race cannot be treated as inferior for four centuries and then suddenly be able to shed that heritage. This inner human oppression was noted in a 1940s study by Dr. Kenneth and Dr. Minnie Clark of Harvard, who found a majority of Negro children preferred white dolls that were "nice" over black dolls who were "bad" and looked like them.
The study became a major factor in the desegregation of schools that ultimately followed. However, the study was repeated in 2006 with essentially the same results.
Our nation is built on a white European heritage based on the most literate society in that colonial world. However, slaves until 1865 were deliberately kept uneducated. So while many African Americans have been able to take advantage of education while transcending their slave heritage, there remain cores of African Americans for whom the gap is too large, particularly surrounded by lingering prejudice.
Within these cores there is generally lack of achievement, apathy, crime and a generational cycle of poverty. Some police officers, viewing these negatives, end up seeing these cores as inferior, if they weren't biased to begin with.
However, within these cores there are people who care, who are trying to develop opportunities to make their communities better. But they need the support of police officers who want to work with them, to be part of the community and to take pride in helping make it better.
Of course police officers have to be tough to deal with criminals. But the deeper problem that needs to be addressed in some minority communities is not just crime, but wide-spread underachievement and poor living conditions.
Geoffrey Canada recognized this deeper need and, with the help of private donations, established the Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ) covering almost 100 blocks in New York City. The HCZ has provided extensive educational, health and other services to parents, families and children in the zone since 1970.
Some critics, while recognizing the overall success of the project, feel the resulting test scores of zone children do not justify the large investment of funds in the project. My response: this is a small price to pay to help wipe out an educational deficit caused by race, white people deliberately keeping non-whites illiterate for centuries. The alternative is to simply continue the education of the street.
America is becoming a majority of minorities. Hispanics are in a better position than black Americans, not only because they were motivated to come here, but their literary heritage wasn't stunted, although not well-developed.
Asians are provided with a unique and powerful work ethic heritage. In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell contends that the determination and grit of Asian rice farmers in finding ways to maximize the yield of their limited rice fields created a superior academic attitude and effort. This would explain why Asian-American students out-achieve all others.
We presently choose to judge the educational progress of American children by their academic achievement. Clearly, that choice puts Black and Hispanic children at a disadvantage. Therefore we would do well to locate Black and Hispanic zones that need additional support.
A key part of this support would be police officers who would not only keep the peace, but work with local leaders to better the community.