In the wake of heightened racial tensions and violence against police officers that have swept across the U.S., one black man has risen to help lead the country’s painful healing process.
And he isn’t the president.
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Still in mourning for the five officers from his own department that were gunned down and killed during a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas on Thursday, Dallas Police Chief David Brown has been paving the way for black Americans and police officers alike to begin fruitful discussions about how to build a deeper and stronger community.
“And we just need to hear from the protesters back to us, ‘We appreciate the work you do for us in our right to protest,’ Brown said. “That should be fairly easy.”
In fact, Brown has been so successful in his attempts thus far that even the Left has taken notice.
“Everyone should watch Chief David Brown’s interview on @cnn,” pop singer Lady Gaga tweeted out to her 61.2 million followers, adding, “this is just a snippet of some truly profound words.”
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During his interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” with Jake Tapper that Lady Gaga promoted, Brown spoke of the hardships the police officers face from the communities they are trying to serve and protect.
“We’re sworn to protect you and your right to protest, and we’ll give our lives for it,” Brown said. “And it’s sort of like being in a relationship where you love that person, but that person can’t express or show you love back. I don’t know if you’ve been in a relationship like that before, Jake, but that’s a tough relationship to be in, where we show our love — because there’s no greater love than to give your life for someone, and that’s what we’re continuing to be willing to do.”
Brown added, “And we just need to hear from the protesters back to us, ‘We appreciate the work you do for us in our right to protest.’ That should be fairly easy.”
Part of Brown’s appeal comes from his position as a black police chief. This position allows him to function as a bridge of sorts between the two people groups in need of healing that are struggling in the aftermath of the shooting deaths of two black men at the hands of police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota, which was quickly followed up by the Dallas shootings. Instead of offering inflammatory and baiting words for either group, Brown has been able to encourage both sides to make changes and work towards reconciliation.
So what has Obama been doing to help soothe the nation’s grief?
“One of the great things about America is that individual citizens and groups of citizens can petition their government, can protest, can speak truth to power,” Obama told reporters in Madrid over the weekend. “And that is sometimes messy and controversial but because of that ability to protest and engage in free speech, America over time has gotten better. We’ve all benefited from that.”
But telling the grieving families of the Dallas victims that “we’ve all benefited” from the protests may not have been the wisest course of action to take, Mr. President.
Obama went on to add that although “there were times when activists engaged in rhetoric that was overheated and occasionally counterproductive,” the Black Lives Matter protests have done a lot of good for the nation.
“Overheated” and “occasionally counterproductive”?
While it is true that the actions of murderous Dallas shooter Micah Johnson do not necessarily represent the Black Lives Matter movement, Obama’s particular sensitivity towards the BLM activists is only compounded with the other pet issues he’s focused on in his rhetoric.
“If you care about the safety of police officers, then you can’t set aside the gun issue and pretend that’s irrelevant. Police have a really difficult time in communities where they know guns are everywhere,” Obama said during a NATO Summit in Warsaw, Poland. “I want to start moving on constructive actions that are actually going to make a difference, because that is what all Americans want.”
When Obama and Brown are compared side-by-side, what truly stands out is the Dallas police chief’s lack of polarizing politicization of the nation’s recent tragedies. Brown offered tough words for both BLM activists and police officers.
“I’m a third-generation Dallas-ite. It’s my normal to live in a society that had a long history of racial strife. We’re in a much better place then we were when I was a young man here, but we have much work to do — particularly in our profession,” Brown said during a Monday press conference. “And leaders in my position need to put their careers on the line to make sure that we do things right and not be so worried about keeping their job. That’s how I approach it, and I hope that it’s an example for others to approach how we conduct ourselves as police officers.”
“I’m the kind of person that, I probably wouldn’t protest or complain. I’d get involved and do something about it by becoming part of the solution. And that’s still in me.”
And Brown, when asked what his advice for “young black men” would be, responded, “Become a part of the solution. Serve your communities. Don’t be a part of the problem. We’re hiring. We’re hiring. Get off that protest line and put an application in, and we’ll put you in your neighborhood. We will help you resolve some of the problems you’re protesting about.”
Perhaps Brown’s greatest strength as a leader for this time came from his empathetic professionalism in the face of tragedy and his optimism for an aftermath that finds healing and hope through practical and purposeful actions.
“I’m the kind of person that, I probably wouldn’t protest or complain. I’d get involved and do something about it by becoming part of the solution. And that’s still in me,” Brown said during the press conference. “That keeps me going, that I get so much satisfaction that I can do a small thing to help this community. I just love Dallas, and I love serving. It’s part of my character. It’s part of who I am. All the crap we gotta take as police officers — the satisfaction you get from serving: much more gratifying. Much more gratifying. It’s like that for a lot of police officers in this country.”