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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Who Is Responsible For The Recent Shootings?

The recent shootings include the shooting of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, the 5 Dallas police officers, a Missouri police officer, and a Georgia police officer. By who is responsible, we mean more than just the person(s) who pulled the trigger; we also include those whose influence made it easier for those who fired the shots to target certain groups.

This discussion of who is responsible for shooting people in addition to the gunman was inspired by a debate that followed the mass shooting in Orlando where a few LGBT rights advocates claimed that Christians were partially responsible for that mass shooting. How could Christians be responsible if the person pulling the trigger was not a Christian? It is because many of us have created a culture of hostility for those in the LGBT community. And though the main reason(s) why Omar Mateen tried to kill so many gays at the Pulse Gay Bar are unknown or may have nothing directly to do with the Christian faith, that those from the LGBT community have been, for a long time, marginalized by society could have contributed to the shooting is a worthwhile question to ponder. And Christians have, throughout the history of our nation, have played a major role in the marginalization of the LGBT community. And if we are going to ponder that question, why shouldn't we also ponder who might have contributed to the shootings listed above?

Who shares responsibility with the triggermen in the shootings listed above? If we follow the model of thought used to paritally blame Christians for the Orlando mass shooting, it would be anyone who tried to create a climate of hostility or hatred for Black people or for police officers. That climate of hostility is often the result of dehumanizing both Black people and law enforcement officers by denying their individuality and assigning them to groups using derogatory labels. 

Examples where people lose their individuality through the use of derogatory labels can easily be seen when some of my fellow Leftists refer to all police officers as 'pigs,' or as an enemy who works for the Bourgeoisie.  Some Black people might also, out of bitter anger over real past events, be tempted to use the label 'pig' or other derogatory labels to dehumanize all police officers. Note the driving motivation between the two groups. The hatred for the police from one group stems from an ideology whereas the hatred for the police from the other group comes from wounded body and spirits. And though the motivation of the second group becomes understandable to us after we have read  the personal testimonies of Black people who have suffered various levels of injustice from law enforcement officers, the response is still merely an imitation of the injustices that have been visited on Black people. And when hatred comes from wounded spirits, those who have given into such hatred have made those in law enforcement who have treated others unjustly into their teachers.

On the other side of the coin, though racial slurs thrown at Blacks may be self-censored more now than before, attitudes that are from and cause negative descriptions of all Blacks are either a sign of racial hostility in some officers or causes others to become hypervigilant while they deal with Black people. The hypervigilance can cause police officers to easily misread innocent actions or even mild resistance as being threats. We should note that both racial hostility and this hypervigilance are signs of racism, but we should also note that not all racism is the same. We should also realize how tense doing law enforcement on the street can be--I, myself, do not have what it takes to be a police officer. We cannot afford to forget that some police officers have lost brothers and sisters in the line of duty. These losses can cause a similar kind of bitterness that Blacks have experienced when they have lost brothers and sisters to police brutality.

In addition to those individuals who dehumanize the people from either the Black race or police officers as possibly being responsible for the recent shootings, we could add the general public as being partially responsible for the injustices and police brutality suffered by Black people. Why? It is because in our silence over their suffering, and their suffering encompasses more than just police brutality, we have not made it clear to our law enforcement officers how important all Blacks are to our society. Here, this is parallel to how religiously conservative Christians have not made it clear to society how important the LGBT community is to us. And if the general public had clearly communicated that message about all Blacks, perhaps some police shootings of Black people would not have taken place.

One more player that might bear some responsibility in the recent shootings is our federal government. This especially has to do with its foreign policies because a sufficient number of those foreign policies reflect a belief that America has the right to intervene anywhere in the world with moral, political, and international impunity. While we hold others accountable to international law, which is part of what Bush administration claimed for why it decided to invade Iraq, we interpret any international law being used to judge our policies as an infringement on our national sovereignty. The implication there is clear, only the US has national sovereignty while others are answerable to us. Likewise, some police officers act as if they believe that while the public is accountable to the law, they aren't when in the act of enforcing the law. 

In other words, the US acts as if the world is answerable to one set of standards while it has no one for its judge. These two different sets of standards perpetuate injustices and can have parallels to authorities at lower levels. So when a police union correctly asks for the horrific shooting of 5 Dallas police officers to be treated as a hate crime, would the same police union also support any proposal that says that every police shooting of an unarmed Black man must also be investigated as a possible hate crime?

The charge that Christians bore some responsibility for the mass shooting in Orlando is worthy of pondering for us religiously conservative Christians. When we have failed to show soceity the value that a particular group has, we need to contemplate whether our failure has contributed, even in a minor way, to hate crimes commited against that group. It's not that we should alway conclude that our failure is partially to blame, but the possibility is worthy of investigation and consideration.  

We have noted that this approach should not be restricted to crimes committed against the LGBT community. We should note that, just perhaps, the general public or influential groups should share a parital responsibility when crimes are committed against other communities like the Black community or law enforcement officers. Perhaps if we all took more responsibility for how we treat each other, we can reduce the crimes and injustices visited on each group.


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