Yes, Let’s Fix the Ghetto
Fear, anger, cries of racism. This is what seems to envelop America these days, dished up daily by no less than presidential candidates and the media. So many people taking offense at what others say or do I can’t keep track of it all. It’s exhausting.
A restaurateur in Albuquerque comes up with a new recipe for tuna with black olive tapenade and to promote it he prints up T-shirts with the slogan “Black Olives Matter.” Amusing at any other time in our history, but not now. Supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement immediately made it clear they didn’t think the promotion was clever, just racist.
In Milwaukee a police involved shooting and before the facts were even known devastating rioting broke out. Cries of police brutality and institutional racism filled the air. Seven officers were injured, a teenager was shot in the neck.
The facts in Milwaukee: An armed black suspect driving a stolen vehicle stopped the car and ran from police. Sylville Smith, 23, a kid with a long and violent police record, refused to drop his gun as officers ordered. According to the local sheriff, who viewed body cam video of the event, the suspect stopped running and began to lift his gun to shoot police. That’s when an officer shot him.
In what world is this a racist event? The unidentified officer is black. Milwaukee’s Sheriff, David Clarke, is black. In what universe is this considered police brutality? I’m left with the conclusion that some segments of America don’t want truth, they want to make trouble. They want to blame others for what they have not achieved in life. They want to rampage through the streets destroying their own communities without a thought to what that senseless act achieves.
And when people like that take to the streets to set fires, loot stores and shoot guns into the air – or at other people – who is expected to come to the rescue? The police, of course.
At what point do we acknowledge that our societal problems are not all about racism? When do we admit that there is an ugly cancer festering in urban areas across the nation and it has little to do with the police? It has everything to do with the behavior of a relatively small group of bad actors in those communities.
As Milwaukee’s sheriff pointed out there exists a very real and volatile mix of urban pathologies in minority communities today, created by decades of failed policies that only exacerbated poverty and nurtured its frequent companion – crime. Police didn’t create the situation. They only respond to the aftermath.
“Failing public schools, inadequate parenting…father-absent homes,” Sheriff Clarke told reporters after the Milwaukee riots. “We all know when fathers are not around to shape the behavior of young boys, they oftentimes grow up to be unmanageable misfits that police have to deal with in an aggressive fashion.”
And then, the zinger from this African-American Sheriff who often talks about the lack of family values in today’s inner-cities.
“Stop trying to fix the police. Fix the ghetto.”
Bravo for the blunt assessment. And sheriff Clarke is not the only black law enforcement official to challenge those neighborhoods plagued by drugs, gangs, poor schools and a culture that relies on government handouts.
Dallas police chief, David Brown, who lost five officers and saw 7 more wounded when a crazed gunman interrupted an anti-police protest last month agrees.
“We’re asking cops to do too much in this country,’’ he said. “Every societal failure, we put it off on the cops. Not enough mental health funding? Let the cops handle it. Not enough drug funding? Let’s give it to the cops. … The schools fail, give it to the cops. … That’s too much to ask,” he said.
Brown issued a challenge to protesters to abandon the marches and riots and do something positive. Like join the police force, just as he did when he tired of seeing his friends succumb to the crack epidemic.
“We’re hiring,” chief Brown said. “Get out of the protest line and fill out an application.”
Look, since President Johnson’s Great Society America has poured multiple billions of dollars into programs designed to give folks who live in what Sheriff Clarke calls, “the ghetto” a hand up and a way out of their environment. Yet the perpetual problems with crime persist.
Now it’s time for residents to realize there is only one way to combat their daily anxiety. By joining with police to help wipe out crime in their neighborhoods. Community leaders and clergy must persuade citizens to help police by reporting crimes, illegal guns, drugs and other activities that erode their quality of life. It’s the only way their children will be able to break the cycle and thrive without fear – of the criminals or the police.