by Harry C. Alford
There seems to always be a reminder for us. A Black male being pulled over by a white policemen is in a treacherous position. I have taught my sons to pull to the curb, cut off the engine and place your hands on the wheel. DO NOT MOVE! When the policeman asks for your driver’s license and car registration, say: “Officer I am going to pull my wallet out from my back left pocket. After that I will go to my glove compartment with my right hand to get my registration.” Put your hands back on the wheel and keep them there.
White policemen seem to have a great fear of Black males. In looking at the two shootings last week – Baton Rouge, LA and a suburb to St. Paul, MN that certainly seems to be the case. Alton Stirling was minding his own business when two policemen tackled him to the ground and shot him in the heart at point blank range. The St. Paul incident was even more vicious. Philando Castile was shot sitting in his driver’s seat. The officer fired two shots in his chest and then fired two more in his shoulder. He died in the presence of his fiancé and four year old daughter. Both of these cold blooded murders were recorded. A cell phone owner captured the Baton Rouge massacre and the fiancé of Mr. Castile streamed it live on Facebook. If that had not been done these murders would have been under-reported by the press and television media.
This time the whole world watched what was happening in the United States. When traveling abroad it is suggested to contact the State Department website and see the peace status of the nation you are going to. This time the nation of The Bahamas flipped the script. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent out a warning to young Black males traveling to the United States. They were asked to “exercise extreme caution in affected cities in their interactions with police and not to be confrontational and cooperate”. England, France and other ally nations have expressed shock and shame about the racial status of our nation.
Protests sprung up throughout the major cities of the United States. I-94 in the twin cities was shut down for more than four hours. New York, Atlanta, Phoenix and, of course, Baton Rouge had the largest protests. The 5,000 protestors in Dallas, TX became the next big focus of attention. A deranged veteran took “justice” in his own hands by killing five police officers and wounding seven more. The guy was so evil and clever with his military style actions the police department decided to bomb him. Again, the whole world watched this.
How do we heal this open wound? It is going to take strong leadership from the top. In 2004 at the DNC convention a young new politician named Barack Obama gave an extremely motivational speech. He talked of the need to unify our nation. Four years later he ran for president on the platform of “Hope and Change”. We all assumed that change would be for the better. But now we are approaching his final term in office and “Hope” seems to be lost. Change happened and it wasn’t for the better. America is more divided now. We have to go back to the 1960’s to resemble our current status on race.
It would be so nice if the two presumed candidates for President would put out a sincere call for peace and understanding. We should go back to what President Obama suggested in 2004: “There are no red states and no blue states but just the United States of America.” But this time our elected officials should take this to heart. All of our leaders from city council to the White House should demonstrate peace and tranquility amongst ourselves. The only intolerance should be against “evil” whether it is in the Middle East or in a town in the Midwest.
Let’s face a continuing problem – the adequate training of our police departments. Lie detectors and routine mental evaluations should be practiced by all departments big and small. Dallas Police Chief Dave Brown has turned the Dallas Police Force into one of the finest in the nation. The DPD is very diverse and practices community policing. It is working as the crime statistics are some of the lowest in the nation. Oh, how things have changed in this city since I journeyed there back in the early 1960’s. If the city of Dallas can do it then the rest of our nation can do it also. It just takes devoted leadership and open discussion. May God bless our nation and help us to heal our wound.
Mr. Alford is the co-founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce®.