THE NATIONAL INTEREST — America has just experienced one of the saddest weeks anyone can remember, certainly since the 9/11 Al Qaeda attacks. Two young black men shot to death by policemen, one white, the other Asian, in episodes that seem, in early perceptions, to have been senseless. Then eleven Dallas police officers shot from ambush—at least five fatally—in a racially charged spree of savagery. Such events, and certainly such events in confluence, defy efforts to give expression to the human emotions they unleash. We try, of course, reaching for the most powerful and outrage-charged words we can muster, but everything seems to fall short. It’s too sad, too numbing, too disheartening.
Such events also are too easily exploited for political advantage or philosophical leverage. Whenever a black is killed in confrontation with a white policeman (or, it seems now, an Asian American), the cry goes up that racism must have been at the heart of it.
Consider the immediate reaction of Minnesota governor Mark Dayton following the death of Philando Castile in the course of a routine traffic stop for a broken taillight. We don’t know yet precisely what happened before the fatal shots were fired from the gun of officer Jeronimo Yanez, and yet that didn’t stop the governor from proclaiming publicly what was at the foundation of the tragedy. “Would this have happened,” he asked, “if those passengers and the driver were white?” He answered: “I don’t think it would’ve.” Even while acknowledging that the facts weren’t yet known, he said, “I’m forced to confront—and I think all Minnesotans are forced to confront—that this kind of racism exists?”
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