Reine Duell Bethany - Author and Illustrator
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White Cops vs. Young Black Men: A Reciprocating Demon

The solution to most problems does not look at all like the problem. If I cut my finger with a knife while chopping potatoes, the solution is not to damage the knife. The solution is to mend my finger, determine the conditions under which I cut myself, and change my cutting practices so I don't reproduce those conditions.
     The solution to the rising incidence of white law enforcers killing young black males is not for young black men (or black people in general) to inflict violence on white policemen (or on white people in general).
     However, reciprocating violence is what the result will be. Why? Because law enforcement officers are trying to address the problem of crime, and crime is not the problem.
     A society can't solve a problem unless it asks the right questions.
     I believe this is a right question: Why do people of color, and especially African-Americans, feel so separated from the rest of American society that when an African-American is killed by policemen, race is always defined as causative?
     Whether race was actually involved does not matter. It does not matter. What matters is the sense of separation. 
     American society has to recognize that racial separation is still a frightening problem in our nation. Many writers, white and black, are trying to address this issue at this time in our history. Countless well-meaning white Americans, including me until about a year ago, are discovering that what we believed about our society is not in fact true.
     We believed that the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s solved the race problem. Racism was no longer illegal, so it would go away. We are discovering that we are wrong.
     (Have any laws ever made any crime go away?)
     Racism has not gone away. It has manifested itself in subtle ways, unspoken ways -- most of all, in the evisceration of laws designed to integrate American society in terms of dwellings, property ownership, and education. Outright race-based separation was abolished; but legal separation still exists because racism does not bow to law -- it finds ways to use law.
     The solution is for white America to stop referring to any other race as "them." All Americans have to be "us." Unless law enforcement officers see all young men as part of us, as people to be cared about, as people to coach and to enlighten and correct, -- not as "somebody I must suspect and subdue" -- then the demon of racist violence will reciprocate. Young black men aren't going to lie down and be mistreated by white policemen if they believe there is a history of unjust treatment of young black males. They will be inspired to a useless, non-solution-producing sense of battle. They will be lionized by some and demonized by others, as will the white law enforcement officers, and meanwhile nobody is even addressing the problem.
     It's not that white policemen are killing young black men. It's that we are finding excuses to kill each other -- to kill ourselves, to kill our nation. We have to wake up.


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