- - Thursday, July 14, 2016


What will I tell my children about the recent tragedies after the deaths of five police officers and the shootings of a number of black Americans. How will I explain to them that our nation is being torn apart by violence, anger and distrust and that we are desperately looking for national leadership?

Our country is experiencing another round of riots and protests pitting black Americans against law enforcement. A painful divide exists in our country where many in the black-majority communities feel isolated and frustrated while our police and first responders feel abandoned by our leaders. Two communities are greatly suffering, tensions are high, and there is no real solution in sight and seemingly no national leader with the ability to heal the nation.

President Obama insists that “we are not as divided as we seem.” Obviously, he has been living in a glass bubble too long.

The president is hardly a neutral observer. In many instances, he has been highly critical of law enforcement and highlighted police brutality even before all the facts were in.

Let’s recall that Mr. Obama sent White House officials to Michael Brown’s funeral in Ferguson, Missouri, and Freddie Gray’s funeral in Baltimore. But with tensions high following the clashes in Ferguson in 2014, two cops were killed execution-style in Brooklyn and it was Vice President Biden, not the president, who attended their funerals.* Mr. Obama barely speaks of black-on-black crime or of police officers killed in the line of the duty. It is no wonder that the law enforcement community did not always feel Mr. Obama had their back.

Now it seems the president is playing catch-up. He met this week with law enforcement officials and members from Black Lives Matter. The president summoned academics to the White House to talk about the problem. Dialogue is, of course, important, but it’s not enough. Communities need immediate action to reduce tensions.

Former state trooper and detective Morgan Wright said, “President Obama confuses the message and has been quick to blame the cops. The solution to combating crime is to be partners with the local communities.”

Our president should learn from Dallas Police Chief David Brown. Chief Brown has reminded us of the heroic work of many police officers and the importance of building a healthy relationship with the community.

He delivered a powerful message during a press conference after the shootings. “We are hurting. All I know is that this must stop — this divisiveness between our police and our citizens,” he said.

At that moment and in the days to follow, this black police chief became a leader in our badly needed national conversation.

Chief Brown is an example for young black men as well. The police force, he recalled recently, “took an inner-city kid like me with flaws and made me their police chief.” Dallas, he said, “had supported me through very difficult challenges.”

The other part of the equation is the tragic reality facing so many young black men in the inner cities. More young black men are incarcerated than are attending college. They are living in neighborhoods with high crime and poverty rates and experiencing the breakdown of the family. Their distrust of authority has made it even more difficult for them to feel they are being protected by the cops instead of feeling like their targets. According to a recent NBC News/Marist poll, only one in four urban blacks say they trust the police.

The old liberal strategy of government dependency clearly has failed. Healing demands individual and community empowerment, as well as the support of the faith-based communities to bring God into troubled lives. It takes an education system that does not fail the students but gives them the chance to rise to their fullest potential. It takes local neighborhoods working together, where blacks and those in law enforcement can find common ground in fighting crime. It takes a robust economy with better wages that uplifts all Americans, especially the poor.

My children have learned about the great civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., and now they hear the inspiring words of Chief Brown. What these tragedies teach us is that we are all human, regardless of profession, color or ethnicity. Our hearts all beat the same, and we all have to find compassion in ourselves to know that our brothers and sisters are hurting and embrace the obligation to help.

*The original version of the story mistakenly said no administration officials had been in attendance at the funeral. 

Mercedes Schlapp is a Fox News contributor, co-founder of Cove Strategies and former White House director of specialty media under President George W. Bush.

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