When it comes to racial issues, it seldom pays to paint with too broad a brush.
Indeed, there have been tragic incidents involving black victims and white police officers. They deserve the full attention of not just the black community, but all people who care about their rights and their communities.
Yet, keep in mind tragic incidents that have happened in Ferguson, Missouri (or in Los Angeles, New York, Sanford or New Orleans in past years) does not mean that police officers everywhere are out to get minority citizens.
Storm Lake is an example of how law enforcement can work within a community of multiple races of immigrants with different cultures and languages. Officers reach out in many ways to their diverse community, which perhaps keeps some frustrations from forming in the first place. We hope nobody looks at our local police or sheriff as an "us against them" situation. (By the way, most years, a majority of arrests in Storm Lake are to caucasians.)
No doubt, minority residents may feel they are targeted unfairly, stopped more often, watched more closely, in virtually all communities. Looking at it from their perspective, it is easy to see why they may be frustrated.
But it is also appropriate to look at it from the police officer's perspective. On the streets, it makes sense for them to be where the problems most often happen. Not to target any certain group, but to protect those who live or visit in that area. It also makes sense for police to be vigilant about people who have repeatedly been in trouble before. That isn't racial profiling, that's good police work.
I can't speak for officers because I've never been one. But my guess would be that they would be the first to wish that their time patrolling goes by without incident, that they don't have to pull over cars or check people for weapons, drunkenness or drugs, and that every resident who has been in trouble before cleans up their act.
Before we become too critical of our officers, think what it must be like in their shoes. Late at night, usually alone in a given sector, and every time they step to a door or car window, never knowing quite what they will find inside. Cases of assaults on officers are not uncommon, but you don't hear any protests over those.
In fact, you don't hear about Jermaine Jones, either. He is a 29 year old, who was gunned down on the same streets in Ferguson just a few weeks before the case that has captured all the headlines. Why didn't you hear about him? Because he was a black man shot by black killers.
It's only big news when a racial angle can be played; it is an odd state that we have come to. It's almost as if we as a society want to be angered and divisive.
Are police officers subject to human error? Of course, we all are. It is very easy, after the fact, to second-guess, when we were not there, and we were not the ones who had to make that split-second call in real life uncertainty, in the dark, on the street. We're not the ones who have to live with the consequences of life-and-death decisions.
I'm not defending the shooting of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson. I'm just pointing out that for every case in which we must investigate for excessive force, there must be tens of thousands in which officers have positive contact with their citizens of all races, helping to prevent problems from happening, bending over backwards to avoid someone being in danger of being hurt or hurting someone else.
We need to fully investigate any case in which officers may have done wrong, so we can prevent having them repeated. Police - like health, care, media, banking, retail and every other element of a community - should be expected to be color blind.
But we can help them too. Don't have your kids out on the streets at night, where not much good can possibly await them. Don't drink and drive, or drive without a license. Don't hang around with people who can't stay on the right side of the law. Treat people around you with respect. Don't commit crimes and then complain you are being "profiled."
We have let Ferguson become a matter of white vs. black, and lost sight of what we need to do to prevent another tragedy.
Instead of cops resigning and people laying down to block malls, wouldn't it make more sense for the police to draw on the concerned people and create a task force that could assist them in bringing the communication barriers, making the streets safer in a dangerous neighborhood?
My fear is that not only will Ferguson become a matter of race; it will be assumed that the same racial unrest divides people of differing skin colors everywhere - which is not, and cannot ever be allowed to be, the case.
We can't bring young Michael back, but we can - and had better - work together so all can be equally safe on our streets.