The police chief and the mayor are not in warring factions.

Photographer: Stewart F. House/Getty Images

Some Want a Race War, But Dallas Won't Deliver

Francis Wilkinson writes editorials on politics and U.S. domestic policy for Bloomberg View. He was executive editor of the Week. He was previously a national affairs writer for Rolling Stone, a communications consultant and a political media strategist.
Read More.
a | A

The first e-mail, with the subject line "Race War," arrived in my inbox, from a regular, unbidden correspondent, at 7:31 this morning. The term was already floating in the ether. The Drudge Report headline was "Black Lives Kill," painting tens of thousands of peaceful protesters in cities across the country as murderers. The New York Post went with the always provocative "Civil War" for its cover. A former congressman skipped the "civil" part, declaring on Twitter "This is now war" and telling the president to "watch out." (He deleted the tweet, thus immortalizing it.)

There is a virulent quarter of America that seems disappointed that we haven't had a race war. They're the people who listen to President Barack Obama's thoughtful, restrained and measured concern for black victims of hair-trigger police officers and swear they hear the president say it's time to kill whitey. They insist that Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter are somehow mutually exclusive.

They jump at these moments of tension and tragedy not merely because they are haunted by their own churning racial aggression. They jump because they are impatient. After all, we've had seven years of a black man in the nation's most powerful office. Yet still no mass roundup of white patriots, no greenlight for black-on-white crime, no comic-book clash worthy of their juvenile imaginations.

Dallas will disappoint them again. The city of 1.3 million people should be as ripe as any for racial strife. Almost a third of the population is white. One quarter is black. More than 40 percent is Hispanic and about 3 percent is Asian. One quarter of Dallas, once an insular enclave, is foreign-born.

Yet the city's white mayor and black police chief seem to be on the same page. "This must stop, this divisiveness between our police and our citizens," Chief David Brown said. Mayor Mike Rawlings urged the city and the nation to "come together and lock arms and heal the wounds we all feel."

Social strains are great right now. Racial anxieties are coursing through our politics, some of them very deliberately stoked. There is an ugly presidential campaign under way (though Donald Trump rose, rather than sank, to this occasion). Yet in all likelihood, the next few days in multiracial Dallas will be marked more by introspection, solidarity and grief than by blind rage and racial antagonism.

Before the shots rang out, the protest was peaceful. When the chaos began, Dallas police officers shepherded protesters to safety. And protesters were duly horrified by the killings.

The unity called for by Dallas's civic leaders may be a tall order. The conflicts between black communities and police have been decades, centuries even, in the making. But most everything about the past hours in Dallas has been a testament not to the bloody racist past but to a far better, if still imperfect, future.

The demagogues are out in force, eager for a quick score. Don't let them carry the day.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Francis Wilkinson at fwilkinson1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Philip Gray at philipgray@bloomberg.net