It began with Alton Sterling, a black man in Louisiana, pinned to the ground and shot by police outside a convenience store in Louisiana.The picture of his dead body went viral. Then there was Philando Castile. Shot by an officer during a traffic stop for an alleged broken taillight when he reached for his license and registration after advising the officer he was carrying a firearm. His girlfriend posted the aftermath on Facebook Live for the world to see as he faded away. Actually, it began a long time before either of these cases. It started with other shootings this year and years past and other killings of unarmed black men by white cops, like Eric Garner and Freddie Gray, where justice was not found, grief and frustration building with each incident. “I can’t breathe, ” Eric Garner choked out, before he died from an illegal choke hold placed on him by a NYPD officer. His crime? Allegedly selling cigarettes on a street corner. Freddie Gray was handcuffed and thrown into a police van and taken on a “rough ride” during which he somehow sustained a spinal cord injury he did not previously have. He later died in the hospital.So far, the officers charged with his murder have gotten off. So he broke his own back? So many more incidents I could name and detail here, people like the Black Lives Matter movement. Why black lives? Don’t all lives matter? Of course they do. But white lives have always mattered and always will. That’s a given. Black lives have not always mattered, and current evidence points to the possibility that maybe they still don’t. Black people are scared of the police, and it’s not just their vivid imaginations or their guilty consciences. Racism is alive and well and systemic in America. Most white people are in deep denial of this. They don’t want to admit it; they don’t even want to discuss it. Admitting racism exists doesn’t mean you personally are racist. It doesn’t make you anti-American. We can love our country and admit that there are issues that need to be addressed.
But instead of addressing the issue peacefully, one man, whom I shall not give a name, elected to use violence. An Army reservist, he set himself up as a sniper at a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas, and began picking off police officers. 12 were injured, 5 were killed. These officers were there to protect the protesters and many were not wearing body armor, making them easy targets. Contact was made with the shooter. He expressed his frustration with the recent shootings and a desire to shoot white people, especially officers. Eventually, they sent in a robot bomb to his location and he was killed. Thank God he was stopped and no more officers were shot. But what did the shooter accomplish? He lost his own life. He took the lives of others, creating more grief, more frustration. It’s an endless cycle. What comes next? Will police officers now be more likely to shoot when they see black? Police officers are some of the bravest people in our society. Every day they get up and put on that uniform and go out into the world, they are putting their life in danger. I worked as a police dispatcher for 13 years, and I know the dangers they face. There is no such thing as a “routine traffic stop”. Every time they approach a suspect vehicle, they are facing possible death. Every time they respond to a domestic disturbance, they are facing a potentially lethal situation. They have to be ready for anything and often have a split second to respond. I’ve heard their stories. I’ve known a few who shouldn’t have been officers, but the majority were good guys who just wanted to do the job right and get home safely to their families. There are some bad seeds out there. And there are some good cops who just make mistakes. There needs to be openness and accountability so that justice is served. There is a code among police officers. Cops don’t rat out cops. I understand the feeling behind that. But covering for a bad cop serves no one. Don’t let the bad ones make all law enforcement look bad. Children growing up should see the police as heroes, as good guys to run to in times of trouble, not bad guys to run from. I wonder what the average black child thinks when he sees a police officer. What can we do as individuals to heal the divide between black America and the police?