Black Men Shot, Policemen Shot, What to Do Now?

Whites and nonwhites have an obligation to engage in caring, open dialogue to defuse racial tensions.

By George Yancey Published on July 8, 2016

Friday morning on Facebook I saw a post from a friend who knew someone related to one of the dead police officers in Dallas. If the tragedy there had not been brought home to me before then, it certainly was now. Of course the shooting there has to be placed in context of the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. I will wait for more evidence to come in, but at this point it seems their deaths well may have been unnecessary.

In the background of all of this there is the racial alienation in which these shootings have taken place. It is too much to hope that we will have no more horrible shootings in the future. But perhaps we can move to reduce or eliminate the racial alienation that’s poisoned our culture. Maybe now with people on all sides of the political and racial arguments feeling such pain, we can begin taking the necessary steps to move towards real racial reconciliation.

The need is great and I am going to be blunt. We will not solve this problem with some imposition of colorblindness that does not fit the lives of people of color. Yelling “All Lives Matter” without any context only deepens the alienation. But the solution is not to be found in the Black Lives Matter movement, either. I see no evidence that BLM promotes honest interracial communication. Instead I see a group that pushes its own racialized agenda and expects compliance instead of communication. This too is a recipe to maintain racial alienation, not eliminate it.

What we need is honest interracial dialogue. Some people argue that we’re already having plenty of interracial communications. They’re mistaken. We have groups of people arguing and talking past each other. There is no real active listening there; no real communication. My Christian faith talks about human depravity. One of its effects is that we tend to think of ourselves and others we like, before we think of those we do not know or like. Only through concerted effort can we have the healthy, honest, interracial dialogue that makes real racial reconciliation possible.

The key is to be ready to listen and not just announce to others what has to be done. Whites and nonwhites are in different positions in this dialogue, so their duties are not identical. (I have written more on this from a Christian perspective.) Both whites and nonwhites, however, are responsible for engaging in caring, open dialogue to defuse racial tensions. Both are guilty of sin when they fail to do so.

Until we learn to listen to others we will never know where they come from. We won’t be able to find the kind of compromises that everyone can live with. Solutions imposed on others will always be resisted. Without honest attempts at mutual understanding, racial alienation will continue. Thus it is all the more imperative that we listen to each other to find solutions we can all agree to.

So let’s put some meat on these theoretical bones. Whites tend to impose a colorblind picture of reality on their conversations with people of color. They often tell us that things aren’t as bad as they once were; that racism is not a big deal. But how can you tell people of color about their own racial experiences? Can you tell me I haven’t experienced “driving while black,” or never been stereotyped as incompetent because of my race? These things are real. I have experienced them. Whites have the right to own their own perspective and experiences, but they need to be very careful telling us that putting an end to racism requires that we adopt their colorblind perspective.

On the other hand, I have seen people of color tell whites what they can and cannot say about racial issues. Whites are told that they cannot bring up black-on-black crime, or the danger a police officer feels, or a number of other perspectives whites may have. How can you ask whites to have an “uncomfortable” conversation when you are not willing to be uncomfortable yourself? Honest conversations have to go both ways. You must honestly hear what others say. Of course you expect they will also hear what you honestly have to say.

If nothing else, this week’s horrors have reinforced the reality that we still have a lot of work to do on racial issues in this country. This problem isn’t going to go away overnight. I do not have space here to go in depth into all it will take to have those conversations. While I have written about this from a Christian perspective, I am also really proud of the academic work I did with Michael Emerson, in a book explaining step by step how such conversations can happen.

Yet I do speak as a Christian; and I have talked about the Christian counterculture that must emerge in our society. In my vision of this counterculture we are multiracial. We do not agree on all things, but we have learned to work out our differences in a manner that honors our Lord. In doing so we produce a gift to the rest of society: a way to move towards racial reconciliation. I hope my dream will soon begin to become reality.

Print Friendly
Comments ()
The Stream encourages comments, whether in agreement with the article or not. However, comments that violate our commenting rules or terms of use will be removed. Any commenter who repeatedly violates these rules and terms of use will be blocked from commenting. Comments on The Stream are hosted by Disqus, with logins available through Disqus, Facebook, Twitter or G+ accounts. You must log in to comment. Please flag any comments you see breaking the rules. More detail is available here.
  • O’Pinyon

    I noticed that the two officers who shot Black men were swearing at them.
    It would be better to hire Christian police officers.

    • Boris

      They are both Christians. Typical ones too.

      • O’Pinyon

        to clarify: “followers of Jesus as Lord”.

        • Boris

          Well it’s really an illusion that you can follow someone who clearly never existed.

        • fred2

          I think Boris is a troll. I wouldn’t feed him.

  • Lael Arrington

    Thank you, George, for your gracious tone, calling both sides to an uncomfortable honesty.

  • Nomad

    Excellent article, thank you!!

  • CbinJ

    I think the problem is that we have lost sight of what real racism looks like. Profiling and stereotyping are not inherently racist concepts. Do we have a police brutality problem? ABSOLUTELY. Whites & blacks are both victims of this problem, but only the black cases get media attention because Leftists would rather divide us and ignore context and facts than blame the true culprits: BIG GOVERNMENT & SECULARISM.


    Mr. Yancey

    Every time something like this happens, we hear of the ‘need for dialog’ and ‘open discussions.’

    Although that would be a really nice thing, you also must realize it is far to late for such a thing. The definition of racism has morphed to the point where it means anything people want it to mean. And, with the ever changing definitions, of the word, plus the emotion involved, an open dialog is impossible.

    A person writes ‘Trump’ on the sidewalk in chalk, and that’s racist (to the point of crying students demanding therapy). A person who is not Mexican cannot celebrate Cinco de Mayo’ without accusations of racism. Guarding our border is racist. Growing dreadlocks and not being of African heritage is considered cultural appropriation.

    The Alinsky-ite tactics of engaging emotions mean that any infraction means that people start screaming, attacking violently, calling for boycotts, etc. Democrat Martin O’Malley has to apologize for saying ‘all lives matter.’

    There is a slaughter of African Americans, but no one cares, no protest, no March, when done by other African Americans. 5 Caucasians are killed in the same time period of the two black men and….and…..nothing. We even had to turn George Zimmerman into a ‘white hispanic’ to make sure it was a black white issue, as black Hispanic would not have been as interesting.

    Mr. Yancey – if you are reading this, please explain to me – we are required to celebrate diversity, we are required to recognize and celebrate the differences between the races, sexes, origins, religions, etc., – so p,ease explain – how do we do this without stereotypes? How do I look at a group of….let’s say Asians, and think, ‘a Jew would make this better because a Jew would bring….?’ Would I not celebrate the Jew for some perceived positive, or de grate the Asians because they are missing something without the Jew? We cannot celebrate diversity because we are terrified of it. All we can do is celebrate the celebration of diversity. To actually point out a difference would be….say it loud Mr. Yancey….racist!

    Tell everyone to turn off the emotion,,.turn off the rage…remove the switches that are in people’s brains that shut down thought and engage raw emotion, and maybe then we can talk. Until then, I will simply smile and say, ‘yes…why…diversity…..white privilege…’ And then rush away hoping I do not lose my job or end up being protested.

    • CbinJ

      Like I said below–the problem is we have lost sight of what real racism looks like. Racism is taking actions against a person solely based on their race and not taking into account any other factors–factors like crime rates or prevalent ideology.

      It is racist to say that a person can’t eat at a restaurant simply because a person is a certain race.

      It’s not racist for the FBI to profile for a suspect of African or Arabian physicality when they hear there has been an Islamic terror attack. That is just using good judgement

      What is very important for people to understand also is that Stereotyping and Racism are not the same thing because Stereotypes are often based on experiences (even if those experiences are a result of misunderstanding rather than truth). To be clear Stereotyping can fuel Racism, they are not mutually exclusive ideas of course.

      For example, if I were to strike up a conversation with a black peer in my college class, I would assume that they were a Leftist because of statistical voting patterns. I don’t like Leftists–no matter their race–because I think Leftism is a dangerous ideology and people who stridently hold to it are dishonest bullies. That line of thinking is full of stereotypes, but it is not racist. If I were to find that this black peer was a conservative or apolitical my preconceived notion would be debunked for that individual and we, I’m sure, might strike up a friendship. The physical marker of race for ideology would be completely disregarded.

    • CbinJ

      Also, I would like to comment on your idea that we must celebrate diversity.

      Leftists have two contradictory definitions of diversity they try to sell. The first: diversity by ethnicity, race, national origin, gender, orientation, etc with a for demand ideological unity amongst those diverse groups they try to cultivate. The second: multiculturalism, which, when applied, is an anti-Western, anti-Christian mishmash of people groups who hate each other (fascists, Muslims, communists), but hate Western ideas and Jews and Christians more.

      Many conservatives/ libertarians argue that we should foster a rich landscape of multiple ideological pursuits and exclude demographic factors when cultivating diversity.

      I think both of these views are mostly wrong, but surprisingly I actually think the Leftists’ first definition of diversity is more correct. We should, especially in the Church, basically a believe the same things: it’s called orthodoxy for a reason. Americans should all hold to the same principles and ideals; for example, we shouldn’t have a pro-abortion anti-American party and “a pro-life pro-American party”–both parties should be pro-life and pro-American.
      The diversity we can and should focus on, especially in the Church, is diversity of personal experiences and talents. We all have unique stories and our demos (race, gender, ethnicity, and national origin) play a role in those stories. We all have unique gifts and skills that God uses for His purposes (which never contradict each other). We all have unique gifts and skills that we should be using in unity with the Truth to make America great. Real diversity is beautiful, but it doesn’t have to be celebrated because it is so natural.


        What is most odd about diversity is, individualism (something the left rails against) is the ultimate form of diversity. Each of us is a minority of one. When any of us pass, there will never be ‘that’ person ever again.
        When I hear Hillary say we are ready for a woman president, it is like she is saying, “Vote for me, I have a vagina.”
        But notice, the catch is you must believe in bigger government. White men believing in smaller government is bad enough, but tolerated as some sort of evil. If you are non-white, or female, not believing in leftist ideology is a grave sin. Again – where does this come from? How can people be so dumb as to not see it?
        Simple – it is a tactic used by Mussolini, Hitler, Mao, Alinsky – engage emotion, not intellect. The same reason the anti-hate people smash windows and turn over police cars, while starting fires. Clarence Thomas is evil, Bill Clinton is great. Bill Ayers is a professor, not a terrorist, and his wife, Bernadine Dorne (who celebrated the Manson killings), are good community activists. One must shut off the intellect and engage in emotionalism. Double think…thought crime… logic and reasoning can be used as tools, but with the myth, you can move mountains (Mussolini). How many leftists even know Hitler’s party was the National Socialist Party (National Socialist Worker’s Party)?

        • CbinJ

          Totally agree. And with this issue of Black Lives Matter and a discussion of race that’s being called for by people on the American Right–talking about race is just giving the Left what they want. Like when the Left demands we stop fighting the terrorists because it makes more terrorists, people on the right like Glenn Beck and Dr. Russell Moore are groveling with White Guilt because police officers were murdered. It makes no sense. I am willing to have discussions about race and police brutality/ militarization, but I don’t think the issues relate to each other. I cannot believe that we have racist cops, we may have trigger happy cops, but racism has nothing to do with it.

  • Gregory Peterson

    “On the other hand, I have seen people of color tell whites what they can and cannot say about racial issues. Whites are told that they cannot bring up black-on-black crime, or the danger a police officer feels, or a number of other perspectives whites may have.”

    In my experience, it’s about discerning intent and context of the white people bringing up those points, not a blanket prohibition.

    • CbinJ

      Yeah, we know, if the white person is Conservative they don’t get the time of day. The white person must be a groveling Leftist.

      • Gregory Peterson

        Listening to the oppressed isn’t groveling.

        • CbinJ

          You admit my basic premise, though; that’s all I needed.

          • Gregory Peterson

            So… Jesus was a groveling leftist, too?

          • CbinJ

            Nope, he wasn’t a Leftist–he was against the hyprocrites in power. Hyprocrites like Obama who encourage people to act like victims to the point they go insane and lose purpose leading them into great sin like murder and theft. Then the hyprocrite in power pats the criminals on the head and blames the police who were just trying their best to deal with the consquences of the sin he led others into. Hyprocrites like Hillary Clinton who quote Bible verses on Twitter, yet are anything but Biblical in their ways and thinking.

            Jesus didn’t abandon his authority over the truth (he didn’t grovel) while showing compassion to others. Though, the real contention here is that Jesus was dealing with real oppression, what we are dealing with in America today is mostly manufactured oppression. But obviously real oppression exists too and it’s the kind that can be solved, but won’t be. Why? Because those hyprocrites I was talking about need slavery to government to maintain their power. Jesus doled out freedom to slaves, but slaves have to accept the responsibility that comes with being free. Like you can read in the Old Testament, people can get comfortable with slavery and become unwilling to leave it. Conservatives have or should have been groveling for African Americans to leave their chains for years. I know I do beg my fellow Americans, the black community, to be free from the tyranny of big government, and that includes the police state.

Why Your Creativity Matters to God
Art Lindsley
More from The Stream
Connect with Us