Little known fact: I was born in Dallas, TX.
It is little known because I am not proud of it. Having lived there for a handful of years non-consecutively, as an infant and young adult, my memories of the city are neither clear or fond. My mother and sister live there, so I will visit them from time to time, but generally speaking, I’ve never been a fan of Dallas.
Today I feel differently.
Better known fact: I am neither black or white. This is fortunate for me, as it grants me the [relative] ability to comment on race from a brown leather armchair which lacks the partisanship of white privilege or the anger of black victimhood. It also means I am able to assess situations involving race with slightly more nuance and slightly less bias, or at least I’ve convinced myself of that much.
So here we go.
Let’s get two things straight right from the start:
- If you don’t know and acknowledge that racism is not only present but thriving in modern America, or that black and African-American peoples are still being widely and blatantly victimized and oppressed, then you are delusional, in denial, or simply out of touch.
- If you do think that violence, assault, and/or murder — whether against civilians or officers of the law — are acceptable or effective responses to the victimizing and oppression aforementioned, then you are delusional, in denial, or simply out of touch.
Here is why:
We live in a time of subversive prejudice. Police officers are not walking the streets of Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, Ferguson, Baltimore, Sanford, et. al. and mowing down protesters with firehoses or siccing vicious dogs on them. They are not lynching people — not in the same way, at least — but shooting them in cold blood when they are unarmed isn’t a whole lot better. Nevertheless, for a lot of white America, it’s hard to see that there is still a problem, because it’s not thrust in everyone’s faces so glaringly as it once was.
We also live in a time of divisive ideology and practice. There are very few concerned citizens out there who are trying to bridge the gap between races — to be frank, more are acting in the interest of widening it, on both sides. The insufferable hippie-dippie optimist in me wants to say that love and tolerance can overcome, that the wounds can be mended. Never has said optimist been more perilously at risk of becoming a skeptic.
— inelegant segue —
The whole idea behind facts is that they are facts, which is to say they are irrefutable. So when verified statistics are made available to the public which demonstrate the real, quantifiable wrongdoing that people of color are subjected to on a regular basis, and members of said public try to dismiss, ignore or refute them — whatever the reason may be — it puzzles me.
Let us review some.
According to The Washington Post [as of 24 December 2015]:
- 965 people were fatally shot by police
- 564 were armed with a gun
- 281 were armed with another weapon
- 90 were unarmed
Some of you were probably expecting more dramatic numbers in light of public outrage ignited by the Black Lives Matter movement and other organizations. That is not the point. We expect police officers in the modern age to exercise some level of good judgment in the line of duty, and to suggest that the majority of police officers exclusively act outside the scope of the law is not only inaccurate but slanderous and disrespectful.
Our country needs its police officers, but we also need them to abstain from abuse of power, and to cease unjust treatment aimed consistently at people of color.
1 in 10 victims were unarmed. That’s one too many, I think we can all agree. And while black men make up only 6% of the American population, they account for a staggering 40% of the unarmed men shot to death by police in 2015. Moreover, in instances of victims exhibiting only mild resistance deemed unworthy of lethal force, 3 in 5 were black or Hispanic.
If you’re having any doubts regarding the factual nature of these facts, please feel free to read the article itself, which is fact checked:
Back to Dallas.
David O. Brown, Chief of the Dallas Police Department, was quoted in a New York Times article as saying that the shooter (now deceased) freely admitted that “[He] was upset about the recent police shootings, at white people….He wanted to kill white people, especially white officers”.
The suspect in question, a 25 year old Army veteran named Micah Johnson, was reportedly acting alone when he knowingly targeted police officers who were positioned to keep the peace at a BLM protest in Downtown Dallas last night. Five officers are dead. Seven are wounded. One civilian was killed, as well. Six lives taken, and seven forever scarred, purely out of blind hate.
I am a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, and I do not acknowledge the existence of All Lives Matter even as a valid argument, much less a movement; but I will never understand or get behind the brutal and calculated murder of police officers for the simple crime of being white, in much the same way I will never understand or get behind the murder of unarmed civilians for the simple crime of being black.
The really fucking sad and discouraging part is that I wasn’t totally floored by what happened in Dallas yesterday. So widespread and pervasive has the system of racial prejudice in our country become that there were bound to be violent repercussions at some point. But it’s important to recognize that the inevitability of human weakness and rage does not justify the act of giving in to them.
What it comes down to is that the atrocities of 7 July 2016 in Dallas are not indicative of majority sentiment. They are the result of radical ideology. Not all black people hate or want to kill white people. Similarly, not all police officers want to kill unarmed black men. To harbor or vocalize such dogmatic sentiments would be both reductive and objectively wrong, so let’s not even bother with it.
These are individuals acting within the boundaries of their personal moral codes, which exist independently and far removed from the recognized ethical code that binds a functioning society together. Granted, the killing of police officers is not institutionalized the way that racism is, making it much less prevalent (although no less despicable), but the same radicalism defines its toxicity.
Point being that we, as a society, have to rise above human weakness and rage. We have to forestall the inevitable. We have to be better than these individuals. We have to band the fuck together, because we’re fucking in it together. Anything less will result in more violence, bloodshed and hate — or potentially oblivion.
I won’t say my thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the victims of this heinous terrorist attack — and it was an act of terror, lest we forget — because that’s a bunch of cop out horseshit used by people who refuse to accept the severity of this national crisis and the need for it to be addressed. My soul aches deeply for those families. My heart is breaking and mind reeling in light of these events. Fuck it, guys, my eyes are tearing up as I’m writing this.
For cynics, it’s as easy to roll your own eyes at the grace and tolerance of people like Dr. King as it is difficult to truly exercise either. I can’t, in good conscience, say I wouldn’t want to lash out as a black victim of modern racism. Nor can I say that I wouldn’t resent black radicals if my parent were a police officer who had been targeted for being white. But here’s what I can say:
Just as everyone is capable of succumbing to prejudice, so too is everyone capable of transcending it.
This is all very murky and treacherous territory, because even though there’s no denying that racism is fundamentally wrong, the right way to overcome it remains fundamentally unclear. One thing which remains undeniably clear, however, is that something has to change. We have to change.