I’ve been trying to process the horror of the recent killings-- civilian and cop. The wall of words and the wash of emotions like a powerful undertow pulling me under. I was already numb after Baton Rouge and Minnesota. The shooting of the five Dallas police officers left me gasping for air and reflecting about how very much racism is embedded in the fabric of our society.
Shooter Micah Johnson acknowledged that he wanted to kill white cops, but in his murderous fury he gunned down Patrick Zamarripa, who was Latino. This is how twisted race hate is. And this warped lens of bias doesn’t haven’t to be overt as in the case of Johnson. No, most of the time it is not recognized, though I do believe it was the driving force in the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.
In fact, it seems only the blood soaked Deja vu of Baton Rouge and Minnesota has moved some skeptics to accept that unarmed black men are more frequently the targets of police.
I’m exhausted from the constant effort of proving what is the reality of my lived experience. I wrote my nephew a note last week --subject line “Be safe.” Even as I struggled to find the words for my message, I realized--once again-- how utterly powerless I was to insure his safety. Still I echoed what his mother has had to say countless times as he grew from a little boy into a long limbed black man. Sadly, my latest worry note wasn’t just motivated by the latest killings in Baton Rouge and Minnesota; I had a long list of other victims from across the country. I warned him not to walk around with ear buds because I’m scared he could become another John Crawford. Crawford was shopping in an Ohio Walmart carrying a toy BB gun while talking on his cell phone. The cops, called to the store by a customer who thought it was a real gun, shot him--in the back-- because they said he didn’t respond to their verbal commands.
I’m resentful that it took a week of seeing video of Alton Sterling getting shot at point blank range, and the livestreaming of the aftermath of Philando Castile’s killing by a clearly unstable cop, to spark wider outrage and to stir empathy from many more people. I don’t want their killings to be forgotten as the nation copes with the shock of the calculated murders of the Dallas police officers. And I don’t want any of the deaths—Sterling, Castile or the police officers-- to be subsumed under the weight of charged political rhetoric. “We are all wounded by these events.” That’s what President Obama said at the Dallas memorial. In this moment, I wonder if the cuts are too deep to repair.