Once again I find myself turning to my website to share thoughts on tragedy, hate, and love. Once again, the nation's flags are at half-mast and bouts of rage and tears erupt from our population. Once again, tragedy has sprung from hate.
I don't need to break down the news. We all know about the deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, and five on-duty police officers in Dallas. And I don't need to break down the current controversies that surround these and other deaths. We are all aware to some degree.
And yet, I can't say nothing. As in my post about the Orlando shooting, I feel like I'm not adding much to the conversation, given various stories and perspectives have invaded everyone's Facebook news feeds. But despite that feeling, I need to speak (or write) my peace regardless, because too much hate has been born of these shootings.
I want to address those who are horrified by the murder of the five police officers, but feel less concern about the pattern of police brutality against black citizens. It is absolutely right and good that you should be horrified and swept up in turmoil over police officers' deaths. They were murdered, plain and simple. Their deaths were unjust and should be mourned. Being a police officer is a hard job that requires a certain level of commitment and courage that not every person has.
My problem is, if you mourn their deaths but continue to try to justify the systematic murdering of black people by on-duty police officers, you are trapped in a cycle of hate and racism--plain and simple.
I hate that I have to say it, but to satisfy the inevitable responses if I don't say it, I'll just beat it to the punch and say: I know not all cops are racist murderers. I get it, we all get it. Not all cops do these things. Okay, now moving on to the point.
Regardless of if all cops are racist murderers or not, the system we currently have results in innocent black lives ending at the hands of various cops. This isn't up for debate, this is fact: systematic racism is killing black citizens. And where are they supposed to turn if the people killing them are the same people who are supposed to be protecting them?
Look, I'm glad people mourn the deaths of the cops in Dallas. That act was sheer evil. But so is killing black people for no reason! I see a lot of people on Facebook trying to justify the deaths of black people. Maybe it's easier to do that than deal with the real problem of racism and a system that perpetuates it. But regardless, that's not the right way and in fact perpetuates the problem. It is a racist act to try to justify the death of a black person by highlighting past deeds or drug use, as is common in these cases. I know on some level we all know this, but let me say it anyway: Having a record does not justify murder! (And while we're on the subject of justification, I would just love to hear people's justification for the death of Tamir Rice--you don't get much more innocent than a child playing outside.)
At this time of tragedy and contemplation, I hope that anyone who extends the hand of love and mourning to the families of the slain officers do the same for the families of slain innocents. Maya Angelou said it perfectly: We are not our brother's keeper--we are our brother and sister. The onus is on you to stem the tide of racism and hate, it is not on black people to prove your assumptions wrong. Furthermore, it is not necessary to respond to Black Lives Matter with, "All lives matter!" This is a complete erasure of the problem, a problem that will continue to exist if you pretend it's not real.
We all know all lives matter--in theory. The point of Black Lives Matter is that black lives are treated as lesser. No amount of repeating All Lives Matter will change the reality of fear and death that black citizens live in. And let me say this: You can absolutely--and should--recognize that all lives matter, but in order to really act on that belief you have to have compassion and empathy for those who aren't treated with the same safety and respect with which you are treated. Our sickening history of slavery, Jim Crow, and racism isn't dead. All of it has a modern impact very much felt by the black community in the United States.
So, please. Recognize fallen officers. Mourn with their families. Respect the difficult job they have to do. But if you continue to ignore the very grim reality that too many black lives have been taken by police officers, you are part of the problem.