Towards A Discourse on Race Relations in America
In this intense national political era, can we reach solutions to the polarization of race relations in America? We can.
With all the current division of opinions bombarding us—be it immigration, the environment, health care—let us focus on a major race relations issue that plagues us. It is an issue that has fallen under the proverbial radar. Virtually every week in the United States we learn of a tragic law enforcement/civilian encounter. An African-American male is shot and killed by the police, a law enforcement official is shot and killed by a civilian. Why is this occurring in such alarming numbers? How can it stop? Here is a suggested solution.
Three proposals are offered: Convene a forum—a national discourse—to explore encounters between law enforcement and civilians; study the neuroscience of those encounters; and, examine the standards of reasonable use of force by law enforcement.
The forum. The key to achieving solutions is a conversation. People of all races must gather and discuss our problems. Discussing race is historically a tough topic. It requires a return to an atrocious era in our American history—slavery, and its aftermath. We want to avoid that discussion, for who amongst us—currently—is responsible for that original sin. No matter who is responsible, underpinnings of our race relations issues in America brought us to our status.
The forum must be open to many voices. Many Americans have opinions about solutions. The forum must also be a haven to allow the free expression of opinions and ideas—for the police, the civilian, the activist, and the everyday citizen. Depending on the site of the national discourse, it can also be faith-based.
The neuroscience of racism. What occurs in the mind of a police officer and a civilian during their encounter? How the brain works in these episodes is being studied. Call in the experts—some are on the Notre Dame campus—to learn this science. Allow the experts to define the workings of the brain and what adjustments can be made, on the spot of an encounter.
Standards of reasonable use of force. In these police/civilian encounters, what should be the standards of reasonable use of force? When should firearms be drawn by police? If police firearms are discharged, is the standard to “shoot to kill"? We can propose legislation based on our conclusions. We can make improvements in the law.
Out of the crucible of this discourse solutions will emerge.
This May commemorates the 100th birthday of the late Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., revered Notre Dame president and chair of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. Let’s salute Father Ted by taking bold action to seek solutions to race relations issues in America.
View other solutions from the Notre Dame Family
Emily Mediate ’15
Dorene Dominguez ’85
Rob Nabors ’93
Caitlin Conant ’08
Patrick J. Deneen
Luis Ricardo Fraga