It was great to see police officers joining demonstrations against the death of George Floyd. I’d say the vast majority of officers in this country are good cops, and they are appalled by what happened and have little regard for the police officers involved. Cheers to Chattanooga, Tenn. Police Chief David Roddy for telling his officers to turn in their badges if they had no issues with how Floyd was treated.

The relationship between African Americans and law enforcement has never been a good one. Police officers, especially in the South, often took part in lynchings or looked the other way when violence was committed against African Americans. Many police departments were known for having racist attitudes (Anyone remember Bull Connor?).

Relations between African Americans and the police are likely better now than they’ve ever been. Unfortunately, that isn’t saying much.

Anger is one of the most powerful and potentially destructive of all human emotions. When anger isn’t channeled or tempered by love, it is incredibly destructive. When the hatred of the “them & us” mentality is added to the mix, it is deadly, because the angry person sees himself or herself as justified and entitled in their actions. This is what we are seeing in the riots that have occurred since the death of George Floyd.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an angry man. However, he channeled his anger. As a Christian, he did not permit himself to hate his opponents. As a result, the man did something bigger than move mountains:  he changed human hearts and minds, and he changed America.

There are too many people in the country who assume a black person in a “white” area must be up to no good. That’s why Ahmoud Arbery was shot.

There are other examples of this. I’ve seen video on social media of a black delivery person for an appliance store having his truck blocked by the white president of a homeowners’ association who demanded to know what he was doing in that neighborhood and how he got inside it.

There was another video of a black UPS delivery person who was being berated by a white woman (a Karen, as the slang today would say) who said she felt threatened by him walking to make deliveries in her neighborhood. The delivery person was in full UPS uniform with even a bright safety vest with the UPS logo on it.

I believe social media has done much to expose white Americans to what it means to be black. It’s one thing to lecture whites about how they are all “privileged” and benefit from a white supremacist society they had no part in creating. It’s something else for them to be able to see and vicariously experience what it means to be on the receiving end of racial discrimination.

Will Smith perhaps put it best:  racism isn’t increasing in America. It’s being filmed more.

I wonder what the culture of the Minneapolis Police Department is like. Is it one where the attitudes that led to the actions taken by the officers against George Floyd are tolerated? Every workplace is different, and that applies to police departments.

The Detroit Police Department was known for having a racist culture prior to the riots of 1967. The department was 95 percent white in a city that was at least 30 to 35 percent black at the time. The racism was personified in the “Big Four” patrols. These four-man squads were ostensibly looking for wanted fugitives. They became notorious for harassing and intimidating black residents.

Black residents saw the Detroit PD as more like an occupying army. Real reform didn’t come until after Coleman Young was elected Mayor in 1973.

I keep hearing about how African Americans are destroying their own communities. They’re not the only ones who have destroyed them.

Have you ever heard of the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921? In an 18-hour period over May 31 and June 1, 1921, white mobs invaded the all-black Greenwood section of Tulsa, and burned nearly all of it to the ground. The neighborhood had been quite prosperous and was nicknamed the “Black Wall Street.” The official tally of people killed was 36, though more recent research places the number at close to 300. Several thousand black residents were made homeless.

Sometimes, destruction of black and minority communities even had a positive face put on it. Using Detroit again as an example, in the 1950s and ‘60s, the city was in the forefront of “urban renewal.” Ugly slums were torn down and replaced with gleaming, modern planned developments.

As the black residents saw it, their neighborhoods, along with their businesses and homes, were destroyed so white big business developers could make a lot of money. Urban Renewal was seen as a phrase for “black removal.”

It wasn’t just urban renewal either. Paradise Valley was a black community in Detroit known for its many black-owned businesses and its thriving jazz scene. It’s now an interchange on the Chrysler Freeway.

Come to think of it, a lot of the freeways built in American cities in the 1950s and ‘60s seemed to plow through minority and low-income neighborhoods.

I hate to say it, but, when it comes to destroying minority neighborhoods, today’s looters are amateurs. 

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