I remember a time that I would turn on the TV and see the brutal, barbaric violence in other states and countries, and boy was I always thankful that Minnesota didn’t have quite the same issues. However, in recent times those dynamics have changed.
The reality is that the culture of society has changed; we now live in a world that is unfamiliar to some and is just another day in the neighborhood to others. How did a world that has always been a beacon of hope and opportunity for success become a battleground for civil unrest, senseless violence and heartless interactions with humankind, with a total disregard for life?
The deaths of Freddy Gray in Baltimore and Philando Castile in Minnesota are a different type of violence. These deaths are as a result of a criminal justice system that is fundamentally flawed and purposely designed to discriminate, incarcerate and ultimately destroy people of color as well as other economically disadvantaged individuals.
Most police officers are good hearted people that are willing to risk their lives to protect us from the evil that exists in the world, and I thank them for that. It is rare that police officers wake up and go on patrol with the intention of seeking out people of color and committing murder.
However, the training they receive, along with certain mandates, perpetuate stereotypes, portraying people of color as violent and inhumane individuals. From my assessment there is one word that is causing most of these violent responses from both the police and citizens, and that is fear. So let’s talk about that fear and the stereotypes that are causing officers to overreact in an already hostile environment when on the scene.
Let’s talk about citizen’s negative experiences and the absence of trust for law enforcement. Police officers automatically have their defenses on the ready, and the combination of this stance and the stereotypes lead to a volatile, aggressive responses and it sometimes ends with deadly results.
We must restore order and stop the civil unrest in the Midwest. It will take a willingness to listen to each other and not to always agree. Sometimes you have to agree to disagree, but we can do that with civility and respect.
Combating social unrest and preventing these harmful incidents from occurring again requires tremendous effort. None of the answers to these problems are particularly novel or ground-breaking. We have known about the appropriate solutions for decades, yet they have never been properly implemented.
No country has ever combated social injustice, social inequality and civil unrest with a complete, nationwide, ground-up approach that deals with all these problems at once. For the proper changes to occur, and for people to get the society they deserve, more radical changes to the way society is governed will have to come about.
David A. Singleton is Chief Executive Officer for Minnesota Community Policing Services and welcomes readers’ comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.