This Week's Violence Brought Out the Best and Worst of America
When I woke up yesterday morning and the first thing I saw was that 5 police officers had been killed and 14 others injured in an ambush in Dallas, I was in a bleak mood. Heartbroken and despairing. After the shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile on back-to-back nights, I’d lost my faith in humanity. I dreaded what I expected would be the reaction all day on social media: #BlackLivesMatter vs. #BlueLivesMatter, another day of frustrating pleas with Congress and the NRA to pass stricter gun legislation, and hostile reactions from both sides pointing fingers.
One of the first tweets I saw was from Joe Walsh, the former Congressman turned right wing radio host:
Oh, it’s going to be that kind of day, I thought.
Frustrated and out of sorts, I wanted to steer clear from finger pointing and try, instead, to advocate a solution. From my experiences growing up, I knew that integration and exposure was probably the best path through this, but I also felt that was hopeless. We’d tried it before, and it worked, but we rolled it back anyway, and there is little chance our existing politicians are going change it back.
However, the comments on that piece restored some of my faith, because so many of our readers had not given up. There were reminders that there are things we can still do; there were reminders that, as bad as things are, they are better than they once were; and it was practically a troll-free thread. It never devolved into a late-night shitshow as those lengthy political comment threads can often do.
I was feeling pretty good, and then I saw this: A police officer from Kansas left a comment on a random Dallas woman’s Facebook page, on a picture of the woman’s daughter she posted in 2014:
“We’ll see how much her life matters soon. Better be careful leaving your info open where she can be found :) Hold her close tonight it’ll be the last time.”
How chilling is that? How horrifying would it be to wake up to find a random comment from a police officer on a post from two years ago basically threatening the life of your daughter?
The upside, here, however, is that the Kansas police department employing the officer who left the comment didn’t engage in a protracted investigation. It didn’t put him on administrative leave while they looked into it. They fucking fired him. Immediately, because they have zero tolerance for that bullshit.
Then I saw Michael B. Jordan’s Instagram message,. Here’s a guy who played Oscar Grant, a black man who was shot and killed on the Subway back in 2009 and Jordan would’ve had every right to approach the situation with hostility, but Jordan, too, was egalitarian, advocating the need for non-violent solutions.
I’ve been trying to process all that has occurred in the last few days and I’m still looking for the words to express my pain. The fact is Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were not unfortunate accidents. These are just a few of the countless incidents of violent neglect, poor training and lack of accountability that clearly illustrate one thing: Black people are being disproportionally dehumanized and murdered, this must stop!
I care about the safety of my black brothers and sisters and my blue ones too. There are no adequate words for the fallen officers in Dallas. From the bottom of my heart, I thank them for protecting the peaceful protestors, their courage and effort to support us is what we need more of.
This hits close to home. It could have easily been myself, my little brother, my dad, one of my friends, or any of us. When one of us is murdered because a police officer is “afraid for their life”, it pains us - we feel it. In the wake of these senseless murders, our homes are forever broken; families are left to figure it out. I’m concerned about my mother, my sister, and all my magical black women that are left to pick up the pieces. Often they are not acknowledged or thanked for being on the front line fighting these battles for and with us, but know your continued strength, courage, and unwavering love and support gives us the strength to keep fighting. Finding solutions in these times of survival are seemingly hard to identify but we must continue to keep moving forward. Alternatively, violence is not the answer; it only begets more fear and violence. This is the time to unify; our communities, our churches and our homes. My mission is to channel my anger and energy - along with my love and hope for the future into actively finding solutions. Change will take all of us, we can no longer say or do…Nothing. “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” -MLK
Nothing, however, was more touching for me than to see what happened in Dallas, where people of all colors lined up to give Dallas police officers hugs.
Dallas, of course, is a city where things had gotten much better in recent years thanks to the efforts its police chief David O. Brown, one of the best guys, a man who brought his background of tragedy to bear on his position: He’d lost a partner to violence, and in 2010, he lost his own son, who was killed in a shoot-out with police officers (an officer was also killed in the violence). The fact that David Brown can get up every morning after he lost his son to gun violence — on Father’s Day — and continue to work to find solutions should give hope to all of us. There’s a lot of bad in the world, but I am confident that people like David O. Brown and Michael B. Jordan outweigh the Joe Walshs of the world.