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America’s race and police trouble

There is so much wrong with Les Payne’s racist rant, it’s hard to know where to begin [“America’s original sin,” Opinion, July 17]. He conflates all police-related killings regardless of the facts and all “killer cops” are white in his world.

The Dallas shooter was “cornered” by cops and “executed without trial.” Would a few more dead cops have been his preferred outcome?

The killer, Micah Johnson, according to Payne, “was transformed” after seven months “fighting for the freedom of the Afghans.” He was in an engineering unit. A female soldier accused him of sexual harassment and, when the Army sought to kick him out, he waived his right to a hearing in exchange for a lesser charge.

That there are race issues beleaguering this country which need to be addressed is clear. Payne’s polemic does nothing to inform or advance the dialogue.

Christine MullaneyGarden City


At the Dallas memorial service, Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush said there is a need for change [“Seeing unity, not division,” News, July 13]. We need a plan and resources to conduct the difficult conversations on race and policing that the news media and public officials have called for.

The process will not naturally occur, but can be professionally conducted by groups that have had success as expert facilitators, including Hope in the Cities, in Virginia; Everyday Democracy, in Connecticut; and the William Winter Center for Racial Reconciliation, in Mississippi. Former President Bill Clinton’s One America race initiative identified them as among America’s best, but never fully engaged them. Bipartisan sponsorship by his successors could do this.

Conversation creates space for unexpected insights, fosters understanding, forges relationships and leads to commitments that we will work together for justice in neighborhoods and the nation. If not now, when?

Michael McQuillanBrooklyn

Editor’s note: The writer is a founding member of Hope in the Cities’ national network.


Lament, patronize and pontificate. These are the reactions of political officialdom each time an atrocity is committed [“Seeing unity, not division,” News, July 13]. We must demand wisdom, courage, sober judgment and creative contributions from our policy-makers.

A resilient culture such as ours can accommodate new protocols. Here are a few steps we can take now:

n Racial steering by neighborhood is culturally suffocating. Let’s make the penalty for it draconian. A good neighbor transforms perceptions and attitudes.

n Police should patrol in racially diverse pairs. This would force minority recruiting and defuse resident animosity.

n Personal exposure to unfamiliar neighborhoods and their residents should be mandatory for judges, politicians and police.

The goal should be to play together as children, learn together as schoolmates and live together as Americans.

Ed LyonsOceanside


As I watched President Barack Obama address the volatile issue of race in our country, I was touched by the courage of a man who could have simply faded into the sunset of his presidency. But he chose to follow the advice of Dylan Thomas: “Do not go gentle into that good night.”

However, I’ve never understood why in a country of such racial division, Obama has not driven home the fact that he is, literally, the best of both black and white.

He has for the most part been defined as America’s first African-American president. I refer to him as a mixed-race president.

Douglas MacKaye HarringtonStony Brook


It seems to me, whether you’re black or white or another race, if you are acting outside of the law and are confronted by the police, you resist at your own peril [“Inflammatory rhetoric unhelpful,” Letters, July 21].

Let the courts decide your fate.

Thomas TierneyGreenlawn


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