11 July, 2016
Americans have been reacting to a week full of gun violence.
Last week, a gunman shot and killed five police officers in Dallas, Texas. The gunman told police he was targeting white officers.
The shooting came the same week two African-American men were shot and killed in separate incidents in Louisiana and Minnesota. The two were killed by police officers who are white.
The shootings left some people questioning the state of race relations in the United States.
President Barack Obama speaks in Dallas Tuesday at a memorial service for the five killed officers. He plans to meet later with police officials, community activists and others. They are expected to explore ways of improving police-community relations.
Are Americans more divided over race?
As tragic as the shootings were, Obama said, it does not mean Americans are more divided over race.
"I think the danger...is that we somehow suggest that the act of a troubled individual speaks to some larger political statement across the country. It doesn't," he said.
But businessman Donald Trump said that "racial divisions have become worse, not better." Trump is likely to officially become the presidential candidate of the Republican Party next week.
The likely Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, has said "both police and criminal justice reforms" are needed.
Rupert Nacoste teaches psychology at North Carolina State University. Nacoste wrote the 2015 book, "Taking on Diversity: How We Can Move from Anxiety to Respect."
Americans across racial lines mourn killings
On the question of race relations, he agrees with Obama. Recent shootings, including the June 12 killing of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Florida, drew angry reaction from people of all races and sexual orientations, he said.
"When I was growing up in the Jim Crow South, even a lynching didn't bring all the kinds of outrage we are seeing today, from all kinds of Americans," he said.
Jim Crow laws were passed in the southern United States, beginning in the 1880s. Those measures legalized separate rules for blacks and whites.
But racism is not gone from America, Nacoste said.
"Many Americans did not want to think about the leftovers of our segregated past, but now it's close to impossible to claim that ‘it's all gone.'" The U.S. elections later this year, he said, will force Americans to "struggle with the question: What kind of America do I believe in, want to live in, and want my children to live in?"
Robert Snyder is director of the Graduate Program in American Studies at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey. He does not believe the U.S. is "nearly as divided as appearances might indicate."
"Even our deepest problems are more open to solutions than we might think at first glance," Snyder said. He said that research shows better training of police officers reduces police shootings.
A new report on Monday found that black men and women are more likely to be treated roughly by police -- such as being pushed to the ground. Harvard University economist Roland G. Fryer wrote the report. But he found no discrimination in how often blacks and whites are shot by police.
Robert Snyder said it may because police know they will be investigated and possibly charged with crimes if they shoot people, particularly if racial discrimination is suspected.
Respect and Listen, Says Obama
President Obama has called on Americans to respect and listen to fellow citizens.
"I would like all sides to listen to each other," the president said. He was referring to protesters such as members of the "Black Lives Matter" movement, and police groups throughout the U.S.
Many demonstrations have been held across the country in recent days.
There have been clashes between protestors and police in some communities, including Baton Rouge, Louisiana. That is where Alton Sterling was shot and killed last week after being knocked to the ground by police.
Baton Rouge police said they arrested 50 people Sunday for blocking a road.
Lisa Batiste, who lives near the demonstration, said police overreacted.
"I'm disappointed. So disappointed," she told the Baton Rouge Advocate. "It was extremely unnerving -- the military-style policing."
On CNN television Sunday, Dallas Police Chief David Brown praised the five officers who were killed and many other officers who responded to the shootings.
"You saw footage of officers running toward gunfire, extraordinary acts of bravery," Brown said.
On Monday, TheBlaze media reported comments from the parents of Micah Johnson, who police say killed the five officers. His mother, Delphine Johnson, said he was "very disappointed" after returning home from military service.
"It may be that the ideal that he thought of our government, what he thought the military represented, it just didn't live up to his expectations," she told TheBlaze.
I'm Dorothy Gundy.
Fern Robinson and Ken Bredemeier reported this story for VOANews. Bruce Alpert adapted this story and did additional reporting for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
anxiety - n. fear or nervousness about what might happen
lynching - n. to kill someone illegally as punishment for something, real or not
glance - n. a quick look
particularly - adv. more than usual
disappoint - v. make someone unhappy by not being as good as expected or by not doing something that was hoped for or expected
extraordinary - adj. unusual, very special