Dr. E. Faye Williams
TriceEdney — Like millions, I am shocked and appalled by the needless killing of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and 5 Dallas police officers. Respect for humanity requires that we reject, in the strongest terms, the unwarranted and unjustified taking of life. I search earnestly for answers to the “Why?” of their executions and the reason that, after 240 years, our nation still sustains a level of racial hatred and intolerance that fuels these acts of violence.
Anyone giving an honest look at our national tragedy of racial violence, especially the recent epidemic of cop-on-citizen homicide, will agree that we, as a nation, have a conflict of major proportion that must be addressed and resolved if any of us are to live with the assurance of even a modicum of peace. The back and forth response of violence and retaliation can only lead to our mutual destruction.
As an attorney and counselor, I’m not unfamiliar with the mediation process and the genuine effort it takes to accomplish conciliation between aggrieved parties. Accomplishing a successful negotiation between conflicting entities is, more often than not, a monumental task. Those who practice this type of negotiation will usually identify 3 essential requirements for success: 1.) There must be agreement between parties as to the nature of the conflict; 2.) the conflicting parties must communicate in a “common” language; and 3.) the conflicting parties must communicate honestly without ulterior motive or deceit. Although I don’t profess to offer an empirical evaluation of these elements of resolution as they apply to our “national disgrace,” I can offer a personal evaluation based upon years of observation.
First, there appears to be insufficient understanding and agreement as to the nature of our problem among those with the authority and responsibility to make constructive change. My assessment is that few, with the exception of those experiencing racial discrimination, understand the cumulative effect of discriminatory acts.
I’m reminded of the old adage that one can only beat a dog for so long before he’ll attack out of the rage and frustration of receiving needless beatings. Unlike the time when some of us were conditioned into accepting the indignities of discrimination just “as a matter of the way things were,” most Black people are no longer willing to accept these indignities that accumulate in our psyches and eventually distort our relationships with others and our place in the world. Some of us are more inclined to strike back in ways, as futile as they might be, that we believe will express the full scope of our rage and frustration, and bring some measure of justice and retribution against those who harm us.
Too many whites feign ignorance of racial discrimination impacting our community and that these acts are more than isolated incidents which have little or no connection to a larger reality. They don’t see that with each act of racial injustice or violence, there’s a corresponding increase in the level of anger in our communities. They see our communities disconnected by geography, but fail to see that we’re connected by an understanding of our common potential as victims of the same injustice.
Lacking a common understanding of the problem, there’s little hope that we can establish reasoned dialogue. We’re speaking uncommon languages to each other.
I refer to those who listened to Rudy Giuliani attempt to explain that, instead of police violence, the real problem in our community is Black-on-Black violence. Failing to acknowledge multi-generational practices that’ve left many of us unable to compete economically or to maintain minimal parity with whites, Giuliani doubled-down on justifying disparate and unethical policing practices in Black communities. His motives are clear. Giuliani, like too many others, wishes to maintain the social status quo–so nothing changes.
(Dr. E. Faye Williams can be reached at: www.nationalcongressbw.org.; or at: 202/678-678)