I've written a lot over the decades about genuine "racists" versus the millions who are wrongly accused of being such.
And I've seen that today's criminal rioting, looting and related violence is the worst way to address the problem if we're ever to get serious as a nation about resolving bona fide racism in society.
And that's one big IF, considering the vast number of mainstream media darlings intent on fulfilling their mission to foment anarchy and destruction rather than honestly enhancing race relations.
I also see political organizations involved in perpetuating and conflicts over incidents involving Blacks and other minorities by a relative few abusive law enforcement officers who should never have been entrusted to protect or serve.
And, of course, most of the national mainstream media is more than eager to fan every flame, often with inadequate facts or context to credibly support their versions of truth.
Perhaps it's stating the obvious, even a bit naïve, to say that what's needed to effectively combat racism are biannual in-depth national conferences that explore the facts of race relations along with local discussions on the subject.
Simply sitting together to understand each other and the deeper issues and facts would be a good start toward hopefully resolving the mistrust, mistreatment and slayings of Black citizens by some misplaced law enforcement officers.
Count me among those who believe the vast majority in law enforcement perform, thoughtfully and effectively, a very difficult and dangerous job for relatively inadequate compensation and gratitude.
I don't believe we show or tell law enforcement officers nearly enough how much we respect and admire their efforts to walk what amounts to an ever-thinning blue lines.
Friend Danny Timbrook of Harrison three years ago felt so strongly about the lack of positive public input that he purchased and delivered 15 pizzas as a thank you to the Harrison Police Department for all they do.
That's an example of the thoughtfulness that should be happening frequently in towns and communities across our state and nation. While I suspect this sort of expression probably crosses many minds, few--unlike Timbrook--ever act on such thoughts.
At the same time, each of us should realize--despite our rhetoric and relatively narrow perspectives--that not all Americans are treated as equals. Just ask minority citizens trying to live with society's respect and acceptance.
For millions among us, day-to-day life unfolds much differently in these United States. I've witnessed plenty of these shameful inequities as my career of 50 years has led me from California to Arizona, Chicago, Little Rock, Hot Springs, Newport, Fayetteville, Columbus, Ohio. and Toms River, N.J.
Along the way, I've witnessed and reported plenty of genuine racism in most every community. For instance, in affluent Red Bank, N.J., I wrote about serious questions surrounding the killing of a young Black man after he'd been arrested by local police. I saw how the majority of Black citizens in that seemingly tranquil community along the Navesink River were confined to an area of town literally across the railroad tracks.
In Conway, I wrote about the death of Marvin Williams, the 21-year-old Black military veteran from Menifee who two Conway white policemen claimed died of an injury to the back of his head after falling forward on the steps as they escorted him into jail for supposedly being intoxicated. Except Williams' autopsy report showed no alcohol in this blood, and his fatal skull fracture stretched for several inches behind his ear.
In Chicago, I interviewed more than a dozen frustrated, heartsick Black families who had lost their sons to alleged and highly suspicious cell suicides following dubious arrests in days immediately beforehand, mostly for alleged misdemeanors. The former Chicago medical examiner always conveniently ruled those deaths in custody had been self-inflicted. I call that racist dishonesty.
I could carry on about other instances where younger minorities (usually Black but also some Hispanic males) were mistreated or lost their lives under highly questionable circumstances in confrontations with officers.
And it didn't take undue digging to discover some of those officers had histories of abuse when it came to arresting minorities.
Such incidents and many more lead me to recognize the Black Lives Matter movement, yet not to comprehend why this organization seems to offer silent indifference to the ongoing slaughter of young Blacks in Chicago, or the wanton destruction of Black-owned businesses. It strikes me like an organization devoted to pushing radical political agendas while protesting and fundraising under the guise of caring that all Black lives matter when a sensational case makes news.
So when I say I feel our nation could use meaningful national and local conferences on resolving race relations, ones where heart-to-heart understanding and honesty is shared from all viewpoints, I believe that could only prompt positive, and hopefully lasting, results.
This self-defeating alternative where anarchist groups commit violence and injure citizens and police officers is the absolute worst way to go about creating racial reforms that can endure.
All the looting, assaults, verbal outrages, physical injuries and infantile behavior, as well as some city councils' simplistic notion of defunding their police departments, achieve nothing toward meaningful change. Common sense tells us defunding police is obviously a seriously ludicrous idea pushed by leftist radicals.
We each realize police have a solemn obligation and an oath to defend and uphold the laws of our nation, states and cities. It is what they do to earn a difficult, dangerous and too often thankless living.
The overriding issue for me is if each officer will do so impartially with an even temperament, or allow themselves to be swept into the potentially deadly emotions of a particular moment.
We certainly can't (and shouldn't) ask these men and women in blue to refrain from defending their own lives or those of their colleagues when so much evil and crime swirl through society. We must rely on them and their training. Sometimes, circumstances make that extremely difficult.
Despite the best training, there will be circumstances when life-or-death decisions must be made in a split second. It almost always takes longer to respond to a deadly threat than to initiate one, meaning a criminal planning to shoot an officer has the advantage of knowing his intent.
Of course, police should use the methods they have, other than deadly force, whenever possible. They get that concept. And I'm certain many officers do make an attempt to understand within reason (not being social workers) the criminal mind and what it is capable of in the name of greed, selfishness, addiction and mental illness.
That brings me back to how we achieve racial accord under such often complex circumstances. The best idea is to sit together locally and nationally where all sides can explain our perspectives to each other.
It would benefit everyone affected to gain the best possible understanding of deeper, "systemic" causes behind Black sons (and/or daughters) joining gangs, abusing drugs and dropping out of school. The obvious task then becomes determining how best to interact.
That could happen through conferences where one group speaks while others actually listen. I'm talking about truly hearing with empathy and compassion (don't we still have those qualities?) rather than trying to talk over or outdo each other.
When the talking is done, everyone involved then would be best served to analyze the higher purpose behind their period on this planet. What purpose should their being serve? I doubt it will be to generate and foment hatred and destroy livelihoods.
In one respect, I'm summoning the words of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who so aptly reminded us that we each, regardless of skin color and heritage, should be judged not on our skin color but on the content of our character. He was right.
That certainly holds true for everyone involved in the legitimate current racial protests (not the calculated and criminal anarchy in Democrat-run cities) and in honestly resolving differences between us.
Now go out into the world and treat everyone you meet exactly like you want them to treat you.
Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at email@example.com.