Over the weekend, demonstrators took to the streets in St. Louis to protest police treatment of minorities, especially young minorities, in that city. In August, unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed by white police officer Darren Wilson.
Last week, Vonderrit Myers was killed by St. Louis police after — according to police — Myers opened fire on them. The death amplified tensions between the city's African American communities and law enforcement.
"That hurts, no matter what your perspective is," The Rev. Emmett G. Price III said on Boston Public Radio. "Police are operating out of a position of fear, and that cannot work."
"When you have distrust in the community and something like this happens," it makes the problem worse, the Rev. Irene Monroe said, also on Boston Public Radio. "I'm suspect of [Vonderrit Myers] — the police in this incident may have been right in the action that they took, but given how community trust is broken, (...) this is a hard kind of issue to sort through fact versus fiction."
The fact that Myers may have fired on police could be used to "silence the debate" in other cases where police officers' actions should be examined, Boston Public Radio cohost Jim Braude said.
Monroe said it would exacerbate already-distorted perspectives of African-American communities. "When we look at criminality, that's the face of a black man," Monroe said. It gives the impression "nothing but anarchy and lawlessness [reign] in the black community."
Price brought up social media posts he saw defending police officers after recent events like the shooting death of Michael Brown. "Law enforcement officers and their families are afraid," Price said. They feel "they're being persecuted in their own right. (...) Victimized."
Monroe said the worst social media posts reminded her of the idea of the so-called "oppressed Caucasian." "[It's] this group of white men [who] are suffering from what's called 'aggrieved entitlement,'" Monroe said.
Braude mentioned a study released last week by the ACLU about the Boston police force. The study found that between 2007 and 2010, blacks made up 24 percent of Boston's population, while they comprised 63 percent of traffic stops.
Price noted changes that have taken place since that time period. "The data was from 2007 and 2010. (...) The BPD has made great strides and great moves forward." But Price was quick to point out the problem was far from solved.
Monroe said the report was completely unsurprising. "It's Trayvon Martin — you're wearing a hoodie, or you're wearing your pants below your belt[line]," then you're in trouble, she said. "You really have to address implicit and explicit incidences of racism. If you don't change the culture of the place, you're just reinscribing the same maladies that you're purporting to get rid of."
Boston Public Radio cohost Margery Eagan noted how frequently tragedies occur. "This could be my kid, just walking to his job, and somebody makes a mistake and — bang! — he's gone," Eagan said.
Price also said the recent US Ebola scare exposed an unexpected racial rift. "There have been numerous examples of people of African descent coming in" to restaurants, and patrons leaving to avoid — in their thinking — putting themselves "at risk" for Ebola, Price said.
Monroe said she had an eerily similar experience at the Whole Foods hot bar recently. "I just strolled over there, and it was amazing — you'd think I had bad breath or bad odor," Monroe said, noting how other customers kept a distance.
"The Red Sea parted for Irene!" Price joked.
"I had first choice," of all the food, Monroe said.
>> To hear the entire conversation with the Rev. Emmett G. Price III and Rev. Irene Monroe, click the audio at the top of the page.