Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Can We Hold Ourselves Together?

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Can We Hold Ourselves Together?

Article excerpt

Without a doubt, we Americans are in a bad way. The senseless deaths this week in Baton Rouge, La., Falcon Heights, Minn., and now Dallas are devastating beyond comprehension for the victims and their families. Each shooting is also an act in a shared national tragedy. The problems go down to the very roots. The question of whether as a country we are headed in the right or wrong direction can no longer be answered simply with reference to policy matters such as the economy, education or foreign relations. Instead we face the fundamental question of whether we, the people, as a single people, are holding together and can hold together.

What has brought us here? You will be skeptical of my answer but in the years since I published a book called "Talking to Strangers, I have been watching the course we were on and I keep coming back to the same answer. I truly believe that the war on drugs is responsible for the level of violence in our cities, the militarization of the police, a concomitant distortion of policing habits and a process of degradation of inner-city minority communities that is now decades-long.

Americans of all races use drugs and do so, with the exception of Asian Americans, at roughly the same rates; yet our laws are disproportionately enforced against African American and Latino Americans. Our hypocrisy has cut into our soul.

The judicial system is swollen with non-violent drug offenses, leading to a reduction of resources for investigating and prosecuting homicides, which in turn has dramatically reduced homicide clearance rates in all major cities.

The failure of the criminal justice system to clear homicides in major cities leads to an acceleration of violence in those cities, and a trigger-happy environment in which police and civilians are more likely to misuse lethal force.

Violence in inner cities reinforces negative stereotypes of African Americans as dangerous and threatening, making unarmed African Americans disproportionately vulnerable to police violence and feeding implicit bias that negatively affects the employment prospects of African Americans, all of which permits the cycle to deepen and perdure. …

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