Monday, July 11, 2016

Lines Are Drawn, People are Digging In

Former NY mayor and GOP presidential candidate, Rudy Giuliani, is among the most articulate spokespersons for the “law and order” side of the apparent conflict with the Black Lives Matter movement. “Capping off his weekend of inflammatory comments after the Dallas police shooting, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani called Black Lives Matter ‘inherently racist’ and ‘anti-American’ — and even incorrectly claiming that black children have ‘a 99% chance’ of killing each other.
“Appearing on CBS’ ‘Face The Nation’ on Sunday [July 10th], Giuliani had little to say about the deadly police shootings that sparked the Black Lives Matter movement and nationwide protests — including the one in Dallas that was ambushed by a cop killer.
“Instead, he said it is up to the ‘blacks’ to show respect to police officers… ‘If you want to deal with this on the black side, you’ve got to teach your children to be respectful to the police, and you’ve got to teach your children that the real danger to them is not the police,’ Giuliani said.” New York Daily News, July 10th. There are lots and lots of voters who strongly agree with that position, particularly in states with the most liberal gun policies.
The accelerating proliferation of video evidence – the natural evolution of technology from smart phones and police body cams – has produced shattering evidence of what it means to be black in a world where most police departments in the United States are populated by vastly more white than black officers, particularly among precinct captains and above. Although blacks represent 12.3% of the population and non-Hispanic whites 63%, according to hard numbers from the government’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, there are 30% more African-Americans than a white Americans stopped for a traffic violation. Blacks in these traffic stops are three times more likely to have their vehicle searched than whites. OK, so what?
There is no excuse whatsoever for an angry sniper of any race or persuasion to start shooting white police officers. None. So let me make this clear. Nothing in this blog is intended as a sympathetic or forgiving thought for the Dallas atrocity. My heart goes out to those families of the slain officers, and every American needs to express support for those who have placed their lives in harm’s way to protect and serve. What does bother me, however, is a trend to denigrate and downplay the Black Lives Matter movement, to challenge its bona fides, and to make the fault and responsibility for these murders cross over to a generalized white malevolence against inner city black communities.
I read right wing commentators who called President Obama a cop-killer. Huh? Just as many on the left think all police officers are racists. Double huh? I also look at those who believe that more guns are the solution to this seeming escalation of racial violence. Triple huh? The harsh reality is that police officers, white or black, have greater chance of being shot to death in states with stronger gun cultures and less restrictive gun laws. We need to make America safer for cop and population alike, to make our system of justice more uniform and more reflective of our political axiom that demands equal treatment under the law. And we need to reduce factors that make the situation worse at every step of the way.
“[Late] late last year, researchers at Harvard and elsewhere discovered an alarming fact: Police officers are much more likely to be killed in the line of duty in states with high rates of gun ownership… The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, used FBI data to track police officer deaths in the line of duty from 1996 to 2010. They cross-referenced this with state-level gun ownership rates as measured in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey that asked about gun ownership from 2001 to 2004. To isolate, as accurately as possible, the effects of gun ownership on police officer homicides, they corrected for a number of factors that could also affect police officer homicide rates: overall rates of violent and property crime, the racial and economic demographics of the different states, income, education, alcohol consumption and rural/urban population breakdowns.
“They then compared officer fatality rates in the eight states with the lowest public gun ownership rate (13.5 percent, on average) against officer fatalities in the 23 states with the highest gun ownership rate (52 percent, on average). The states with the lowest rates of gun ownership tended to be high-population places such as New York, while the highest rates of gun ownership were in low-population places such as Wyoming. So the researchers compared the 8 ‘low’ states with 23 ‘high’ states to arrive at comparable numbers of law enforcement officers employed in each group over the study period.
“The results were shocking: line-of-duty homicide rates among police officers were more than three times higher in states with high gun ownership compared with the low gun ownership states. Between 1996 and 2010, in other words, there were 0.31 officer fatalities for every 10,000 employed officers in low gun ownership states. But there were 0.95 fatalities per 10,000 officers in the high gun ownership states.
“‘Higher levels of private firearm ownership likely increased the frequency with which officers faced potentially life-threatening situations on the job,’ the study says. High rates of officer homicides appeared to be caused ‘by more frequently encountering situations where privately owned firearms were present,’ it says…
“The mass shooting attack in Dallas was carried out by [an] assailant… armed with what appeared to be [an] assault-style rifle… such as the ones used in seven of the eight other most recent mass shootings in the U.S. These rifles have become very popular among gun enthusiasts in recent years, with the NRA estimating that there are millions in circulation and hundreds of thousands more manufactured each year.
“But their increasing use in horrific acts of violence, culminating in the recent shooting of a dozen police officers, underscores the risk these guns pose on officer safety when placed in the wrong hands. And the growing popularity of the weapons suggests that the average beat cop — often armed with only a handgun — may be outgunned by an assailant carrying a military-style rifle designed for use on the battlefield.” Wonkblog,, July 8th.
Nevertheless, the “perpetrators” in the eyes of the liberal and black communities – white Evangelicals living mostly in red states with easy gun access – now believe that they are the real “victims” who need to circle their wagons against what were once ethnic, racial and religious minorities who today outnumber white American Protestants. They believe they need more “protection” against change. More guns.
“A recent Public Religion Research Institute-Brookings survey shows the alarm that white evangelical Protestants are feeling in the wake of demographic and cultural changes. Nearly two-thirds are bothered when they encounter immigrants who speak little English. More than two-thirds believe that discrimination against whites has become as big a problem as discrimination against other groups. For discrimination against Christians, that number is nearly eight in 10. And perhaps most telling of all, seven in 10 white evangelical Protestants say the country has changed for the worse since the 1950s.” New York Times, July 11th. According to 2014 FBI statistics on racially-inspired hate crimes, 63% are against African-Americans, 23% against whites. We are rapidly drifting apart.
We can bury our heads in the sand, resort to slogans and underlying shibboleths to anchor our unyielding political positions – which will only increase the violence we all claim we oppose – or we can start engaging in two-way conversations beginning with respect for contrary points of view, however incorrect we may think they are. If we do not find that middle ground, we might as well mark our respective political territories and break up into smaller nations segregated by regional political and religious beliefs. The Middle East is a pretty good model for that political structure, don’t you think?
I’m Peter Dekom, and we better start acting like Americans again or risk losing the biggest value of them all… our country.

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