It is difficult to wrap one’s head around the implications of last week’s violence. How can the media help conciliate the relationship between the police authority and protesters who feel targeted because of their race?
The shootings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, the attack in Dallas, and the myriad responses to the killings are the most recent iterations of the deep divides in our social fabric. These divisions are exacerbated by rhetoric from some conservative voices that are quick to pin certain groups and politicians as inciting violence against police.
For example, Americans for Limited Government, the nonprofit political advocacy group, responded to the horrifying Dallas shootings with increasingly divisive rhetoric: “It’s time for GOP leaders to finally just say no to the empty prisons agenda of Black Lives Matter and other agents of blue hate.”
A sense of tribalism, felt strongly at the political extremes, is weaving itself into the very core of our political institutions.
In early 2015, thousands of NYPD officers turned their backs on mayor Bill de Blasio at officer Wenjian Liu’s funeral. Just a few days ago, the head of the National Association of Police Organizations, Williams Johnson, attacked President Obama for waging a “war on cops.”
Editor at large of the libertarian Reason Magazine, Matt Welch, put it concisely at the top of an opinion he penned for the LA Times, “A white cop shoots and kills an unthreatening black man at point-blank range during a traffic stop, and liberal activists demonize law enforcement. A black sniper executes five officers … and conservative commentators demonize the Black Lives Matter movement.”
The one thing that almost all could probably agree on is that law and order is preferable to chaos and anarchy. With such incensed groups, conciliation, mediation and local conversation need to be at the forefront of solutions — whichever side one is on.
We do have examples of people and organizations of widely varying political inclinations coming together to deal with the problems in our criminal justice system. They can serve as beacons for hope going forward.
Let’s champion the relationship between the ACLU and the Koch brothers, who decided to work together to fight overcriminalization and absurdly high incarceration rates. Let’s learn from Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rand Paul (R-KY), who joined forces on the REDEEM Act to help nonviolent criminals get a second chance.
We can and must find common ground and keep talking in order to avoid the deafening sounds of violence and hate.