FOR JIM KENNEY, the first white mayor to helm the majority-non-white city of Philadelphia in 16 years, the central conflict of his first term was revealed in two sentences he uttered during his inauguration speech.
"We will have to all put aside our differences and acknowledge two things," he said. "That black lives do matter, and that the overwhelming majority of our police are decent, hardworking public servants who risk their lives every day."
The lines drew applause as Kenney's pointed words floated along the divide between a police department on the defensive, and a black community grieving the police shootings of unarmed African-Americans nationwide.
But Kenney must know we can't simply put aside our differences. We're too far apart now. The best we can hope to do is to see our differences for what they are, and try to move forward in spite of them.
Our differences have been etched into our consciousness by the videotaped deaths of black people killed by police. Looped on news channels and social media, we watched police choke Eric Garner as he uttered the words, "I can't breathe." We watched Walter Scott crumple to the ground, his back peppered with bullets. We watched two seconds of tragedy that ended when 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot dead while playing with a toy gun.
Such incidents revealed a racial split that was always there. Blacks blamed the police. Whites blamed the victims. The numbers, however, blamed no one. They simply shouted truths that too many refused to see.
Young black men are 21 times more likely than their white counterparts to be killed by police, according to the investigative journalism organization Pro Publica. And while we make up only 13 percent of the population, 26 percent of those killed by police in 2015 were black, according to data compiled by The Guardian. Twenty-five percent of blacks shot by police were unarmed.
Jim Kenney, a man who spent most of his 23 years on City Council supporting police officers, now steps into an atmosphere in which the trust between the black community and police is worn paper-thin. He steps into that atmosphere knowing that both the police and the black community are key constituencies.
A coalition of Northwest Philadelphia politicians led by Dwight Evans and Marian Tasco helped to swing vote-rich black wards in Kenney's direction. He also won support from the Fraternal Order of Police and the overwhelmingly white International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98.
As mayor, Jim Kenney will have to work to serve the interests of those very different constituencies. Saying "black lives do matter" is a start to that effort. But qualifying that statement with the assertion that the majority of police are good and hardworking people shows how tricky Kenney's dance will be.
In a city that's 44 percent black, and where too much of the community has experienced excessive force firsthand, we can no longer be appeased by pretty words. Nor can we be silenced by condemnation.
We've seen police point fingers at our community for supposedly embracing a so-called "no-snitch" culture. But the same "no- snitch" rules that police so often criticize are just as prevalent within their ranks.
The no-snitch culture allows bad police officers to abuse citizens, knowing that the FOP will fight to shield them from prosecution. The no-snitch culture winks when bad cops are fired and receive their jobs back through arbitration. The no-snitch culture makes good cops stand by as their corrupt cohorts wreak havoc.
Over the next four years, there will come a time when Kenney will have to confront that culture. When that moment comes, platitudes won't be enough.
He'll have to act forcefully to bring about change, because it's easy to achieve victory when apathy leads to a 27 percent turnout. It's harder to win when anger brings black voters to the polls.
Solomon Jones is the author of 10 books. Listen to him mornings from 7 to 10 on WURD (900-AM). Reach him at email@example.com. His column will appear here weekly.
On Twitter: @solomonjones1