Monday, July 11, 2016

"Defusing the Rage"

A recent editorial in the Connecticut Post (We must defuse the rage", July 10, 2016) was well-meaning but heavy on platitudes and short on logic. Statements such as "What we all need is to understand one another better" are pointless and say nothing. Advice to "reassure a neighbor" and "...help the dialogue" sound very cozy, but are meaningless. All the marches, vigils and prayer gatherings of the past have served the purpose of providing outlets for grief and rage, but little else. "All people really want is for these senseless deaths to stop", states the editorial. They don't stop.

The solution to minimizing violent atrocities is not mysterious or abstract. The horrific targeting of blacks and resultant revenge killings will not be solved by or calls to "guide the dialogue", whatever that means. The only way that gun violence will be minimized is through immediate and forceful legislation. The only way that racist policies within police departments will be minimized is by actively changing the culture of these departments.

What we have witnessed of late is still more fallout from a misguided 1965 initiative led by President Lyndon Johnson. In spite of Johnson's strides in civil rights legislation, the Law Enforcement Assistance Act created a system whereby the federal government funded local police forces. This began the sad legacy of militarized police presence in black neighborhoods in Detroit, Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles, Newark, and other large urban areas, creating contempt, distrust and animosity between residents of those neighborhoods and the police. Fast forward to 2016, and although progress has been made, there are still strong remnants of this kind of targeted and racist law enforcement mentality, and a crisis of mass incarceration. 

Congress must pass strong gun laws, and police leadership must improve the culture of police forces, or nothing will change.  

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