A noble cause led to ignoble riots, and a major consequence could be something far different from the erasure of racism that some are fervently, worthily seeking. It could be a rise of crime in black neighborhoods, thousands of black deaths, an outcome working in tandem with the coronavirus doing its devastation, a tragic setback instead of a great awakening.

The start of the pandemonium was a horror that millions saw on video, the death of George Floyd, handcuffed, lying on his stomach and saying he could not breathe as a seemingly unbothered white policeman kept his knee pointlessly on Floyd’s neck. Other racial horrors came to mind, from slavery to lynchings to segregation, and the question is whether such dehumanization will ever cease. Peaceful protests began all over the country, but soon enough in Minneapolis, where Floyd died, we had vast numbers moving angrily toward a police station.

The city’s mayor told cops to get out of the way and they did as the demonstrators set the building aflame. And then, across the country, any number of violent protests broke out. A retired cop was shot to death and a Florida cop had his neck slashed. A woman was beaten while trying to save her business. Merchandise of all kinds was stolen from stores, and bottles have been thrown at the heads of policemen, sometimes accurately. What is astonishing is that many mayors and governors seemed to think standing back is the right response, and now we hear the cry for defunding police forces, for keeping them small and out of the way.

They will be kept out of the way, all right, but by self-direction. A study by scholars shows that highly publicized protests condemning police cause police to interact less with citizens, to be less proactive, to step back. The consequence is more crime.

Concerning the riots and looting, Terrence Floyd, the brother of George Floyd, has said that violence “will not bring my brother back,” and, as Martin Luther King Jr. proved, the real way to progress is nonviolence. There are things that should be done, such as making it less easy for police using their unions to escape serious repercussions for the wrongs they commit.

A serious cultural issue for blacks and whites is fatherless homes; another Harvard study showed this is the number one hindrance to social mobility.

Our schools need fixing, and we should have more instances like those in which policemen have hugged peaceful protestors and knelt with them to pray.

Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may email him at speaktojay@aol.com.

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