Skip to main content

Could we just take a deep breath?

lives matter

Lives Matter—John Peeler

Yes, the attack on the Dallas police, even as they were protecting a march protesting police killings of unarmed black men, yes, that was unjust. It was unjust to shoot down officers from the nearest available police force, who had themselves done nothing wrong. It amounted to lumping all police together as the enemy. That was wrong, and stupid, and the deeply troubled young man who did it paid with his life.

In a society where racism is resurgent (and unacknowledged), the police really serve, without anyone admitting it (or even consciously knowing it), as an occupation force.

Yes, the seemingly endless run of arrests gone wrong, with unarmed black men pulled over for trivial reasons ending up dead at the hands of police officers who are rarely punished, yes, that has been inexcusable. It is the most visible, the most scandalous sign of a pattern where black men are commonly viewed with suspicion and fear: when in doubt about a black man, assume the worst. It amounts to lumping all black men together as the enemy. It is wrong, but the perpetrators have paid little or no price.

The perpetrators are just a tiny fraction of police officers, and most of them don’t seem to have gone into these situations with malice aforethought. They were just captives to the myth of the evil black man. When in doubt, assume the worst—and fire first.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

We could escape this insanity with two simple measures. First, police officers need to just play it by the book. Nowhere, no way are they trained to commit the kinds of atrocities we have witnessed. Those who do commit atrocities need to be punished.

The second simple measure applies to young black men: don’t do stupid stuff.

I wish I could be optimistic that these two things will happen. But in a society where racism is resurgent (and unacknowledged), the police really serve, without anyone admitting it (or even consciously knowing it), as an occupation force. Black men (one of whom—what is this country coming to?— has been president for nearly eight years) really are seen as a threat. Police officers are just reflecting the larger (white) society.

And as to young black men, they will from time to time do stupid stuff, because they are young and male, just like young white men. But young white men don’t typically get shot for it.

john peeler

John Peeler