It is difficult to say anything that provides sufficient comfort to the victims of police or other violence regardless of the race of the victim, but it is especially difficult to comfort those who have been victims of more than fatal shootings.
People of color continue to be treated poorly in this country and not just by some in law enforcement. This includes insults, job discrimination, underfunded schools, dangerous neighborhoods, environmental racism, etc. In some locations daily harassment by police for being the wrong color leads to fear and distrust of police.
Traffic stops based on the color of the driver causes resentment. Not all law enforcement practice racist behaviors, but enough do to create fear and resentment. Those officers who tolerate these behaviors of the offending officers contribute to the problems.
We are fortunate to live in Longmont and Boulder County where incidents are now rare and the sheriff and police chief do not tolerate offensive behavior and screen out potential offenders at the hiring stage. Screening of candidates is critical to eliminating problem officers. Candidates should be rejected if they are racially or otherwise biased, do not have the ability to make good decisions under pressure, and/or can’t interact favorably with all residents. Community policing and training are important but only effective with adequate screening.
Excessive force by some officers has targeted white residents as well as minorities and does not justify attacks on any officer. It is likely, as in the case of the slain officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, that good officers are as likely to be attacked, as are bad officers.
Many of the problems will exist until we reduce the extent of racism and other biases in our communities and nation. Pablo Pelligrini sings in one of his songs that hatred is taught in the hearts of the young. If you are teaching your children to hate others, you are the root cause of violence, including violence by law enforcement, poor schools, limited health care, poverty, etc.
It is incredible that the presidential candidate for a major party speaks and promotes bias based on gender, ethnicity, country of origin and religion. A study by the Southern Poverty Law Center directly links increased bullying in schools to speeches made by Donald Trump.
One of the seven principals of my faith is to affirm and promote: “The inherent worth and dignity of every person.” This principal, if followed by everyone, would lead to a much better community, nation and world. This is more than being respectful and polite to others regardless of how they differ from you. It requires action on each of our parts. It requires more than voicing our sadness at events and support for those offended and harmed.
We must insist that our institutions are fair and equitable to all.
School funding must be equal. Discrimination in employment must no longer occur. Income equality must be addressed vigorously. Those who oppose increases in the minimum wage and payment of a living wage need to understand that not providing enough to feed children a healthy diet is hurting all of us. Not providing access to health care is a long-term, costly strategy not just for the physical health of individuals, but for the long-term fiscal health of communities and the nation. These failures disproportionately impact people of color.
Everyone should have an equal voice in deciding issues impacting our communities, state and nation. Giving much more power to a relatively small number of financially well off people (Citizens United) is hard to reconcile with the founders’ intent for one man, one vote (as limited as that was at the time).
Voter suppression efforts that many Republican-controlled state legislatures have passed (and often ruled unconstitutional) were aimed at disenfranchising people of color and others because doing so would impact the outcome of elections.
Bob Norris is a social activist living in Longmont.
This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.