I just want to tell you that you don’t have to do this.
You don’t have to choose, and you don’t have to let them choose for you.
Ok, I’m lying. You do have to choose, but you have more than two options. There is this beautiful, wonderful third.
I’m telling you that you don’t have to choose because everything about today has been about erasure. As I watched the news coverage this morning, everyone dressed in blue, everyone asking obvious questions, everyone grasping for conclusions, and I knew only one thing to be true: the pain and suffering of the families mourning in Lousiana and Minnesota were completely erased from the narrative. The outcry of communities and individuals of color throughout the country would be vilified. Those of us pleading for our safety, for our humanity, would be shamed for it. The deaths of the police officers in Dallas would be treated as a tragic, but somehow isolated, experience.
And I watched it, that “how dare you” moment, live on television:
“Police feel like there is a target on their back. They feel like they aren’t being supported. They feel like they are being treated badly just because of a few bad actors.”
“The commentary is too hot and the result is that police are now dead. We need to tone down the rhetoric. We need to come to the defense of our noble officers who put their lives on the line for our communities.”
“There is nothing ‘peaceful’ about the protest if they are going to pull out guns and start firing.”
“You can’t blame all police for the problems that a handful of police officers have had.)
(No, Dear Reader, the irony is not lost on me.)
The Today Show (which I found particularly contemptible this morning) started off by reporting that this was the “worst targeted attack on law enforcement since 9/11” and kept repeating it over and over again (trigger-language, for sure). Savannah wore deep blue. Willie, too. Even pregnant Dylan was in a dark blue dress. I watched that entire first hour of their coverage and there was not a single minute dedicated to the context of it all. Placing the brutal, unacceptable violence that occurred last night in Dallas on the timeline of a long, horrifying week for this nation was just too much for them to manage. Actually, I’m calling it what it is: willful ignorance. In order to “honor” the fallen, they actively chose not to talk about the rest of it. This didn’t contribute anything to the discussion. They did nobody any favors by actively making this choice.
You must put it on a timeline. You must acknowledge the context of the events that have occurred this week. You must dedicate time to it. That’s what sophisticated, intelligent, critical thinkers do.
And that’s the choice. The beautiful third choice.
The third choice says that the criminalization of the Black body and the manifestation of systemic anti-Black racism in the form of execution of Black people by white officers is wrong and cannot be tolerated. The third choice says that violence against police officers (in retaliation or otherwise) is wrong and cannot be tolerated. The third choice says that these two statements are not mutually exclusive, should not be treated that way, and if they are, you know you aren’t talking to a reasonable person. The third choice says that the current adversarial relationship between the Black citizenry and white officers of the State has been grown in a centuries-long incubation that will seemingly have no end if more people do not choose to think critically about facts within context.
In other words, if you erase either side of this narrative based on the facts that make you feel comfortable about your position, you are, essentially, enabling the next outbreak of racial violence in this country. If you choose not to play the long game, to not acknowledge the circle of facts and circumstances, your short-sightedness essentially enables the next outbreak of racial violence in this country. If you choose to weep for one side and completely ignore the other, simply because you have decided that there are teams and you must choose them, your lack of fortitude essentially enables the next outbreak of racial violence in this country.
Choose not your comfort, Dear Reader. Choose not the talking head who scares you with barking and trigger words. Choose not to symbols and rhetoric that are easy to consume and spew but are not actually contributing.
Choose, instead, critical thinking. Sophisticated thought. Acknowledgment of nuance. The more challenged you are by it, the better off we will be.
Choose history and present context. Choose hard questions and deep answers. Choose neighbors and friends, real people with real stories, embrace them even if you can never fully understand them.
Then go back and teach three other people to do the same.
Be careful out there, Dear Reader. Be kind. Be safe. Take care.