For the past week, Americans have been glued to network news and social media to watch the ongoing fall-out over a police shooting in the Queen City. Charlotte is a southern hotspot that has become an economic hub in North Carolina. As a financial center with lots of amenities for families, the city has grown dramatically over the past two decades. It made news this past week, however, in a way no one in the city ever wanted.
Last Tuesday, the tranquility of Charlotte was shattered when Officer Brentley Vinson shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott following a traffic stop downtown. The Charlotte-Mecklenberg Police Department is claiming that Mr. Scott had a gun and posed an imminent threat to the officers, while Mr. Scott’s family says that he was reading a book when police drew their weapons. Obviously, these two stories are irreconcilable, and one side is wrong. Criminal and department investigations are ongoing to determine blame, but that hasn’t quelled the violence raging in the streets in the Uptown district.
Before the matter can be decided in a court of law, many have elected to decide the issue in the court of public opinion. Protestors quickly plunged the city into anarchy following the police shooting, and have nearly paralyzed parts of the city since last week. The worst part is that, at least it appears, most of the protestors are not even from the Charlotte area. According to Todd Walther, spokesman for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Fraternal Order of Police, “If you go back and look at some of the arrests that were made…I can about say probably 70% of those had out-of-state IDs. They’re not coming from Charlotte.”
The anarchy in Charlotte may be playing out in a North Carolina city, but it says something about us all. America is no longer plagued by legally forced segregation, but by self-segregation that is dividing us along racial, social, and cultural lines in a way never before known in our country. Lack of social cohesion and the rise of identity politics has pitted American against American. The result has been collapsing communities and the growth of government influence, including the expansion of our police forces.
Young African American men, for example, generally have a bias against police and law enforcement, while police and law enforcement generally have a bias against young African American men in inner-city / urban environments. These biases have less to do with America’s legal and economic structures than with the loss of our shared values and community cohesion.
For the past several decades, as the nucleic family has been dismantled and social media replaced the Rotary Club, Americans have become increasingly anti-social. The result has been a rise in regulation and a greater dependency upon police to mediate differences neighbors used to work-out on their own.
If we are going to roll-back these biases that lead to anarchy, we are going to have to get to know one another again. It is imperative that faith and community leaders start encouraging people to get to know one another, for police to foster greater community cooperation in inner-city / urban environments, and that we all build bridges of trust through private partnerships and community involvement. Neither more violent protests nor government programs will lead to peace in our communities, but personal relationships and the private virtue of our fellow Americans. The government cannot rebuild the culture of our country, only Americans voluntarily committed to their communities can do it.