Page 2 of 2   <      

D.C.'s Reaction to Killings Misses the Point

So we know what to do. But it's easier to declare an emergency and wait until other concerns take over the headlines.

Just like it's easier to toss a great cop out of his command assignment because he said something clumsy about race rather than get into a useful discussion of what he was trying to say. After the Georgetown murder, Ramsey temporarily transferred Inspector Andy Solberg out of his command of the 2nd Police District because Solberg told residents that they should report unusual sightings to the police and that "black people are unusual in Georgetown."

Solberg apologized for his "insensitive" and "inartful" comments, but that's not enough for those who are eager to see bias and to play gotcha.

Here's Solberg's neighbor and friend in Shepherd Park, Charles Lawrence, a former D.C. school board member, who, like most of the many who called me to defend Solberg, is black: "This is a white police officer who doesn't just encounter the black community on the job but sends his kid to a school that is 95 percent black. For years, he has coached a soccer team that is almost entirely black. What we really need is more white folks who are not going to run and hide but are committed to living here, like Andy. I don't know any white person in the city who is less afraid of or more fair about race."

And Marc Loud, a parent leader at Shepherd Elementary School, says: "Any one of us could make the kind of statement Andy made. It doesn't mean you have racial darkness in your heart. I look at his life: While many other whites have fled, he looked beyond color and entrusts his children to African Americans for their education."

These days, many people believe that by restricting speech, you can police thought. All of human history tells us otherwise. The path to more tolerant thought and more mature behavior runs through freedom and opportunity. Which are more expensive than crime emergencies and punitive job transfers. But as every shopper knows, you do get what you pay for.

E-mail:marcfisher@washpost.com


<       2

© 2006 The Washington Post Company