We can overcome violence by coming together

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 10, 2016

America is seething with fear, tinged by race, perhaps more than it has anytime since the Civil Rights Era of the 1950s and 1960s.

The wave of violence and the fear of the same have taken a frightful grip on our country.

Far too many young black men have been shot at the hands of those entrusted to serve and protect.

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Some may simply be accidental, but others obviously seem intentional.

America doesn’t know all the details of the recent police shootings in Minnesota and Baton Rouge. We think we do from cell phone videos and eyewitness accounts.

But truthfully, none of us knows exactly what has happened in each of these situations.

What we know, however, about the most recent situations is disturbing.

In Minnesota, a man pulled over for having a busted taillight was ultimately shot and killed while he was sitting in his car. It’s difficult to imagine the circumstances that led to the shooting.

How the officer could have felt threatened in that situation is difficult to fathom. The best guess is the police officer simply overreacted and screwed up.

Hopefully, the investigation will provide insight into the actual details and if the man is proven guilty, he should pay for his crime.

A similar situation occurred in Baton Rouge. In that case, however, the officers were dispatched to a report of a man brandishing a firearm. Clearly such a call would raise their alert level a bit more than a busted taillight one.

But again, we don’t know all of what led to the widely published videos of the shooting.

We must have patience and let our system attempt to work.

That’s easy for me to say. I’m not a young, black male. I’ll never fully understand what that must be like in our country right now.

Statistically, it’s a scary time to be young, black and male in America.

Last year, approximately 1,000 people were shot and killed by police in America.

Of those people, just more than half were armed with a firearm and potentially posed a threat to the officers.

Almost all of the rest had some other sort of weapon.

Approximately 90 were unarmed.

Of those unarmed people who were killed, approximately 40 percent were black.

That’s important because that’s a disproportionately high number relative to the population. On the whole, black men make up approximately 6 percent of the greater population, a Washington newspaper recently reported.

Yet black males are much more likely to be involved in a police officer shooting.

Clearly, taking the law into one’s own hands isn’t the answer. The deranged shooter in Dallas this week who targeted police and killed five of them made headlines, but ultimately only worsened our country’s already raw nerves.

We ask much of the men and women who serve as police. Without making an excuse for the potentially criminal behavior a rare few have had, in some ways, it’s no wonder we don’t have more errors in judgment from police.

We pay them low pay, expect them to deal with society’s problems perfectly and deal in life or death situations flawlessly.

It’s a tough task.

It’s a rough way to live.

And thank God we have people who are willing to do that work.

Bless them for the jobs they do.

Hopefully, America can hold ourselves together long enough to have a meaningful discussion on the current problems we have — too many shooting (both by police and of police) and too much mistrust by all of us.

The way to work through this is to begin talking, openly and honestly. The true resolution will come when we begin listening and understanding all sides of the matter.

I pray that we all have the strength, will and patience to address these issues peacefully and professionally before more blood is shed.


Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.