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The Rule of Law and Racial Reconciliation July 19, 2016 by Richard Nelson

The latest murder of three Baton Rouge police officers has rattled our already fragile sense of safety and reminds us—as if we needed reminding—that we live in an age of hatred, a hatred that fuels terror and ends in murder. And the nearly daily dish of bad news leaves many of us asking how we arrived at such a place.

There are many paths that lead to such destruction. In this case, suspicion of others who don't look like us, loss of empathy for those with a completely different story, and forgetting that the law applies equally to all. Alton Sterling and Philando Castille were victims of suspicion before they generally became victims. As are many black men—including those we revere and in positions of authority.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-South Carolina), one of two blacks in the U.S Senate, shared a personal story how within a year he was pulled over seven times "Was I speeding sometimes? Sure. But the vast majority of the time I was pulled over for driving a new car in the wrong neighborhood or something else just as trivial." All this while an elected official. Scott shared similar stories involving his brother and a staffer who was "pulled over so many times here in D.C. for absolutely no reason other than driving a nice car." The staffer eventually downgraded his car for a "more obscure form of transportation" because "he was tired of being targeted." Scott said such stories are quite common."[I]magine the frustration, the irritation, the sense of a loss of dignity that accompanies each of those stops" Scott told his Senate colleagues.

I cannot relate to that story. It's never happened to me, but I can empathize. I can also empathize with a neighbor who in the 1950's would drive through Madisonville on the way to Evansville to visit family. He was pulled over every time and told he'd either have to pay the cop five bucks to get through or spend the night in jail.  His crime was being black in the era of segregation.

I understand better now the optic in which his children and grandchildren perceive law enforcement. Its part of their family story. We are told that the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children to the third and fourth generation. Indeed, the sins of those comfortable with Jim Crow while injustice was perpetrated against an entire race—even while their neighbors, is being realized in the fear and distrust today. It doesn't justify it, just explains it, in part. But it was only possible through adulterating the rule of law where the majority race has one set of rules while minorities have another, if barely.

In response to the Baton Rouge attack, President Obama said "We as a nation have to be loud and clear that nothing justifies violence against law enforcement. Attacks on police are an attack on all of us, and the rule of law that makes society possible." The statement in itself should be heralded by everyone.

Even Planned Parenthood weighed in on Facebook with a graphic of a black mother embracing her son. The caption underneath read “You deserve to parent your child without fear that he or she will be hurt or killed. Freedom from violence is reproductive justice.”

At a time when we need clear thinking and  consistent messaging, PP's cognitive dissonance is maddening. Whatever one thinks about the humanity of the unborn, it strains credulity for the single largest abortion provider in the nation where 80 percent of their facilities are located in minority neighborhoods, to equate freedom from police violence to abortion rights. Blacks have an abortion rate three and half times greater than whites—the result of PP's founder Margaret Sanger and her Negro Project which was to purify the caucasian race.

However you spin it, the deliberate termination of life in utero is a violence of the first order and one permitted under cover of the "rule of law." Violence was done to the rule of law in late June when SCOTUS struck down a Texas statute banning late-term abortions of babies and requiring abortion businesses to operate with the same health and safety standards as similar facilities. The ruling, on shoddy legal ground, will result in lesser health and safety standards for women's health and the deaths of thousands more human beings.

If our nation is to heal and find racial reconciliation then we must practice those things that foster that. The rule of law must be restored.  And we must be willing to talk in moral categories. We must have conservations about right and wrong. Isn't that what law's about anyway? We're learning a painful lesson that when injustice is perpetrated toward any member of the community, the entire community suffers.  This includes crimes perpetrated against people of color as well as the very smallest members, even if we can't see them.

 

 



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