Imagine a major automobile accident occurred at an intersection. On one corner stood a police officer, on another stood an attorney, on the adjacent corner stood a priest and on the other a physician.
They all clearly saw the accident. But what's the likelihood the stories would match?
Though possible, it's unlikely. Why? Each stands on a different corner with a different perspective, along with a different social location. None are wrong, but none possess the sole truth.
While the aforementioned scenario could apply to many issues critical to our common life, it is acutely appropriate when examining the violence of the week before last. On a basic level, police dashboard- and body-cam footage, which a new North Carolina law withholds from the public, should be public record.
But, as wrong as that law is, there's an even bigger picture at play here from the events of that recent week.
Just when it appeared that the FBI report stating no charges would be brought against Hillary Clinton would dominate the week's news cycle, the next day America was introduced to a reprisal of an ongoing saga where a black man was killed by a white police officer.
The tragic footage of Alton Sterling being gunned down at pointblank range in Baton Rouge was troubling enough. But before the nation could utter, "Here we go again," there were the images of Philando Castile from just outside Minneapolis, slumped over in his car, dying from a police officer's bullet for the nation to witness.
As if this were some cynical infomercial, absurdity then cries out: "But wait! There's more!" The result was cruel, inverted order: five police officers killed and seven wounded at the conclusion of a peaceful rally in Dallas.
I reject linear comparisons of history; 2016 is not the reincarnation of 1968. I do believe we are reliving the question posed in the title of Martin Luther King's last book: "Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?"
It is a valid question with which we all must grapple. But to do so means leaving the street corner of our familiarity that is pregnant with preconceived notions, endowed with insularity and assumption.
For that week's violence, based on the contemporary narrative, presented a cruel irony where the roles of victim and victimizer were proven interchangeable.
We're drowning in the feeble pursuit of attempting to make sense of the senseless. Are we placing too much emphasis on what we know, and not nearly enough on what we do not know?
I'm critical of those representing Black Lives Matter, who, when talking about the deaths of the five police officers in Dallas, concluded their lament with the oft-used conjunction "but." That, perhaps unwittingly, suggests the deaths of the officers, though tragic, was not as tragic as those of Sterling and Castile, as well as the other blacks who died at the hands of police.
In addition to being police officers, the five who were killed were fathers, husbands, sons and friends. Could not the same be said about Sterling and Castile? Who among us are the sum total of a single aspect of our lives?
Then there was the other extreme, most notably former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who offered that Black Lives Matter was "inherently racist" and "anti American."
Demonstrating for what one believes is right is profoundly American. Its roots go back to the founding of the nation. As for being "inherently racist," I can only conclude that Giuliani is providing an analysis that is only skin deep.
The Black Lives Matter movement does not suggest that no other lives are important. Its focus is to shed light that too often, in their view, black lives specifically have not mattered.
So to suggest as Giuliani did recently on Fox News, "Black Lives Matter never protests when every 14 hours somebody is killed in Chicago, probably 70- to 80-percent of the time (by) a black a person," serves as nothing more than a convenient obfuscation.
Black-on-black crime is indeed a tragic issue, particularly in urban America. It should not be used, however, as a disingenuous tool to not discuss the issue at hand.
While one need not agree with either perspective, each has validity based on the street corner where they reside. So where do we go from here?
As long as opposing sides stay entrenched in the certainty of their particular truth, and that shapes the narrative, then the only outcome is chaos.
But to realize community, we must first embrace the words of Aristotle who said, "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."
This means courageously walking across the street to see the opposing view.
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