America needs a therapist

Why our racial discord isn't getting cured

I’ve been watching in dismay while traveling this week as headlines race through my news feed regarding the horrific murder of Walter Scott in N. Charleston, SC. My first thought was, “Damn it. Here we go again. What’s going on with white cops and black men?” If one were to only glance at the surface of this complex and multilayered issue, one might think the United States is engaged in a race war.

But we’re not (yet). What we do have is an internal culture of complacent whiners that have been enabled by 200 years of looking away from our country’s most criminal mistakes. We have a culture that promotes intra-regional misunderstanding and allows for scapegoating according to income and skin level. None of this is officially government sanctioned, but it may as well be, because the government, as a whole, has made no official move to reconcile the United States with her inner demons.

These days it’s common knowledge that if a person experiences years of trauma, the best course of action is to seek out a therapist with whom the patient can discuss the issues that are keeping her from living a productive, healthy life. The patient and therapist will spend months—even years—discovering how the path leading up to the trauma was paved, who helped lay the foundation, and what steps led her to the fate that awaited her at the path’s end. When the patient has a decent understanding of what roles the people in her life—including herself—played in getting to the breaking point she can finally, gingerly, start to put her life together. 

Somehow, this logic is lost on the collective citizens and policymakers of the United States of America. For years our country has acted under the rule of if we don’t talk about slavery/Jim Crow/institutionalized racism/discrimination, it will fade away and we’ll all get along. The result? A ticking time bomb whose clock is about to reach its end. People have run out of patience and their chests and throats are on the verge of bursting with all that there is to say. The death of Walter Scott has brought this feeling even closer to the surface, as friends, neighbors, writers and pundits hold a magnifying glass to the state that is perceived as the one that should be leading the charge against universal brotherhood.

THERE’S A REASON WHY WE’RE TOLD TO PAUSE AND TAKE A BREATH BEFORE RESPONDING TO AN ARGUMENT

That’s what I’ve been doing for the past few days, and now will be splitting my thoughts into two or three posts. For now, I’ll leave you with these facts about this case and South Carolina, the state that I love like a drunk uncle who’s obscenely embarrassing at Thanksgiving dinner but is the first to arrive when you need him most…

  • Walter Scott was killed as he ran from Officer Michael Slager in North Charleston on Saturday, April 4.
  • The South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) received the video—the only evidence of what took place—on Tuesday, April 7.
  • On Wednesday, April 8 Officer Slager was charged with murder and fired from the police department.

South Carolina—like Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, Florida, New York, and California—has a wrenching, terrible history of dysfunction in its race relations. But, if one looks at the simple surface of the incident at hand as many pundits and columnists seem to do (though at the least productive layers), North Charleston moved swiftly into action instead of searching for reasons to excuse this officer-turned-murderer’s guilt. That’s not something we can say for most of the incidents that have made it to the headlines. It’s time to stop laying blame and focusing on the wrong parts of the issues. It’s time, instead, to bring the roots of America’s racial discord into a daily conversation, amongst our neighbors, and in an official capacity by a commission that should be appointed by the White House. If we don’t converse we will only continue to see more senseless murders, more strife, and more division.