Our efforts to acknowledge inequality became apparent after July’s tragedy
Dallas took a sucker punch in the gut with the hate-inspired, racially motivated murder of five police officers. We were knocked down, but not knocked out.
Character is not made in crisis; it is revealed. As the ubiquitous hashtag puts it, we are #DallasStrong.
But why? Dallas has been hard at work in recent years facing its lingering heritage of racism and inequality. The usual way of dealing with these things is to deny they exist, claim they aren’t really that bad, blame a few bad apples, or just whitewash things in order to keep the fiction alive that all is well if we just adopt Pollyanna’s mantra of playing the Glad game.
No, the problems run too deep to wish them away or simply to say that what our ancestors or predecessors did was then, but we are not responsible now. We have begun instead the painful but liberating process of acknowledging that we are all heirs of America’s original sin of slavery. We have begun to see the folly of denying our complicity in systems of law, education, business and neighborliness that have masked a prejudice that favors some and alienates others.
Dallas Police Chief David Brown’s courageous leadership of a department has led to a five-year decrease of 64 percent in citizen complaints of the police’s excessive use of force and a falling murder rate. He hasn’t flinched in his resolve to create respect and trust between law enforcement and the community, especially the sub-communities of color.
We have a mayor in Mike Rawlings and a City Council determined to see the city as a whole, and thereby they have been making the city whole. We have heard our mayor at long last apologize to Latinos for the murder of 12-year-old Santos Rodriquez 40 years ago by the Dallas police. We have seen Dallas Faces Race become an ongoing public conversation. We have seen the Council and the Dallas Morning News focus on building bridges between northern and southern Dallas that were not designed by Santiago Calatrava but by the good will of the human heart.
We’ve seen churches and pastors — black and white — partnering in friendship and action. We’ve seen Christians, Jews and Muslims listening to and learning from one another rather than shouting at one another or “othering” one another. There is no other; there is only one another.
Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” these prescient words: “In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.”
We have work to do still. Plenty. But this tragedy has called out our best in the face of the worst.
Keep calm and carry on, Dallas.
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