It seems as though the nation’s cities and major metropolitan areas are sitting in anxious anticipation for the next police shooting; the next “senseless” loss of someone who didn’t have to die.
That’s unfortunate. There are too many questions surrounding these shootings, and while the answers do eventually come, rarely are they complete, and certainly the pain does not subside just because some plausible explanation is given.
I predict these shootings will continue. I hope I’m wrong.
They won’t be regular, and each one needs to be examined in the eyes of the public, the communities, the courts and all institutions of government for their individual merits of what went wrong and who’s to blame.
It’s a fool’s errand to assume that each one of these shootings is the result of naked, blind racism.
Black cops shooting black suspects; white cops shooting black males; black murderers killing black, white and Hispanic cops — the permutations are numerous.
Many of these instances — as in the case of the shooting recently in El Cajon — involve veteran officers with decades on the force.
So, how about examining these instances through another lens. Sure, let race play a role.
The Black Lives Matter groups, church leaders and others concerned about violence and police brutality in the black community, ask important questions. It’s their right as citizens.
But what else, beyond racial hatred, drives behavior? What if there’s something deeper here? Something that would instill a fear in these officers and cause them to be anxious, alert, poised for action?
See, I think fear is what drives these shootings. Not all of them, but certainly the ones that can’t be easily explained. Fear of what, you may ask? Terrorism.
I believe in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorism in its most raw, demonic form arrived on our shores, it spurred a new kind of fear among the people. Sure, we were told that if we walked around in fear, the terrorists would win. We couldn’t allow that. It would be un-American.
But as each week that passes, and senseless stabbings, shootings in malls, exploding bombs on city streets become more prevalent in a 24-hour news cycle, we will see more shootings by law enforcement.
If you are a police officer and you read of the same violence that others do, and one day you encounter a person — white, black, Hispanic, it doesn’t matter — pointing a round cylindrical device toward you, legs spread as though he’s ready to fire said device, your first thought isn’t, “I bet that’s an electronic cigarette he’s holding.”
Fractions of a second stand between life and death in those interactions. And as much as we would like to believe cops get it right all the time, sometimes they don’t. But are we expecting a behavioral dynamic from the police that we ourselves would never get right 100 percent of the time if we found ourselves in the same situation?
If a police veteran stumbles upon a terrorist act about to be committed, and risks his or her life to stop the terrorist, they are heroes. But if that suspect was strung out on PCP, the same police veteran is now a racist murderer.
Look, as a black man, I’m not here to excuse or assign blame. What I am doing is raising another, larger question — just how much does the scourge of terrorism haunt our society? How big is that shadow terrorists cast, even if they’re not in our towns?
What can we expect of those institutions entrusted to guard us, when the enemy has no moral compass, no respect of human life? Big questions indeed.
Armstrong Williams is the author of the new book “Reawakening Virtues.” Become a fan on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.