Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Editorial: A Wish for 2015: Choose Common Ground over Division; Our View; It's Not Just Protesters and Police. Americans Need to Learn to Talk to Each Other Again

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Editorial: A Wish for 2015: Choose Common Ground over Division; Our View; It's Not Just Protesters and Police. Americans Need to Learn to Talk to Each Other Again

Article excerpt

It might seem unusual to look to the National Basketball Association's all-time leading scorer for wisdom on the intersection of police shootings and protests, but a recent essay by Kareem Abdul- Jabbar offers sage guidance for the national conversation on race and police brutality.

Mr. Abdul-Jabbar, whose father and grandfather were police officers, was reacting to the ambush killings Dec. 20 of New York Police Department officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, who were laid to rest last week. But he also was responding to some conservative commentators who wrongly blamed protests for a deranged man's actions.

The entire essay is worth reading, as it touches on so much that is wrong with our national dialogue today, where various sides put forth straw-man arguments to blast opponents over behavior that can't actually be attributed to them.

Here is the key section:

"In a Dec. 21, 2014 article about the shooting, the Los Angeles Times referred to the New York City protests as 'anti-police marches,' which is grossly inaccurate and illustrates the problem of perception the protesters are battling. The marches are meant to raise awareness of double standards, lack of adequate police candidate screening, and insufficient training that have resulted in unnecessary killings. Police are not under attack, institutionalized racism is. Trying to remove sexually abusive priests is not an attack on Catholicism, nor is removing ineffective teachers an attack on education. Bad apples, bad training and bad officials who blindly protect them, are the enemy. And any institution worth saving should want to eliminate them, too."

Institutions, particularly large ones like government bureaucracies, have a reflexive defense mechanism when they perceive themselves as being under attack. The "circle the wagons" mentality can get in the way of constructive change.

We see this in partisan political squabbles, in the church and school examples mentioned by Mr. Abdul-Jabbar, in criticism of cultural institutions such as the Missouri History Museum or Zoo- Museum District, or even in internecine battles between media outlets as they struggle to tell the story of Ferguson.

Right now, at an important time in our nation's history, it is seen in the conflict between protesters and police, particularly in the most extreme comments made by both sides in an attempt to simplify complex discussions.

A couple of examples:

* NYPD union rep Patrick Lynch's over-the-top rhetoric about "going to war" with protesters after his two fellow officers were shot in cold blood was disgraceful, as was the act by hundreds of union members who chose to turn their backs on New York Mayor Bill de Blasio while he paid his respect to Officers Ramos and Liu and their families.

* When state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, holds up a cut-out picture of Gov. …

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