President Obama made a fiery speech today at the memorial for the officers slain last week in Dallas, Texas, calling out our elected officials for refusing to adequately invest in our society, in our children, and in our communities to fight the deeply entrenched poverty that perpetuates cycles of petty crime, incarceration and broken families – problems which we then lay on the police to deal with.
“We also know what Chief Brown has said is true. So much of the tensions between police departments and the minority communities that they serve is because we ask the police to do too much and we ask too little of ourselves. We CHOOSE to underinvest in decent schools. We ALLOW poverty to fester, so that entire neighborhoods offer no prospects for gainful employment. We REFUSE to fund drug treatment and mental health programs.
We FLOOD communities with so many guns that it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock [a popular handgun] than to get his hands on a computer or even a book! And then we tell the police: ‘You’re a social worker! You’re the parent! You’re the teacher! You’re the drug counselor!’ We tell them to keep those neighborhoods in check at all costs! And do so without causing any political blowback or inconvenience! Don’t make a mistake that might disturb our own peace of mind! And then we feign surprise when periodically, tensions boil over!”
He’s absolutely right. The stagnation of wages, the slashing of education budgets, the outsourcing of jobs overseas, the funneling of all new wealth to the top 1% of Americans, the flooding of our communities with weapons and highly addictive opioid painkillers all contribute to the underlying problems that lead to the violence which provokes violent reactions from police officers – and until we do something about it, there will be no justice, nor peace.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.