I am shocked and sickened by the violence plaguing U.S. society, including the killings recently of 49 people in Orlando, those of Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, and the murders of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge. Numerous others have died violently in our nation during that same time frame.
Ours is an intensely violent, racist society. Can we be surprised so many people are killed by guns and rifles each year when hundreds of millions of weapons are owned by our populace, and when millions of Americans have been militarily trained in advanced tactics, deployed in war zones, and now suffer from post-traumatic stress? No. We have established the conditions for massive violence and are now enduring the consequences.
Will it always be this way? I pray not. The Onion, my favorite online satirical news source, recently ran an article positing that perhaps if we work at it over the next several hundred generations, we might be able to live peacefully by the year 8000. As a Christian, my faith keeps me optimistically believing it can be on earth as it is in heaven. As a student of history, I accept it is unlikely it will be so during my lifetime.
Should we be surprised that a nation with a legacy of slavery and racism continues to experience serious racial tensions each and every day? No. Last week, I sat in a bagel shop in Rapid City, SD and overheard a police officer and a local businessman describe Black Lives Matter supporters as criminals, and state that a bloodbath is inevitable. I fear their views are held by many others.
You may have read about the Dallas trauma surgeon, Brian Williams, who helped save the lives of some of the police officers who were recently shot there. Williams is known to pick up the restaurant tabs of police officers as a way of expressing his appreciation for them.
Brian Williams is African American and says about the police, “I support you. I defend you. I will care for you. That doesn’t mean I will not fear you.”
I maintain a file on racism. Here are just a few headlines from that inbox folder:
- Poor whites live in richer neighborhoods than middle-class blacks and Latinos;
- Exclusion of Blacks From Juries Raises Renewed Scrutiny;
- Racial Wealth Gap Persists Despite Degree, Study Says;
- Analysis Finds Higher Expulsion Rates for Black Students;
- The Disproportionate Risks of Driving While Black;
- Obama’s skin looks a little different in these GOP campaign ads;
- The disturbing reason some African American patients may be under-treated for pain;
- Machine Bias: Software used to predict future criminals is biased against blacks.
We know we have a violence problem and a systemic racism problem in the United States. What we lack is the willpower to address our problems. May God help us.