I was shocked, along with the rest of the country, when I witnessed the video of white police officers gunning down a prone and defenseless black man – Alton Sterling – in Baton Rouge. It’s one thing to be aware of police brutality, it’s quite another to witness a police officer pull out his pistol and kill an unarmed citizen, execution-style.
It took my breath away when, almost immediately, the video of Philando Castile’s murder hit social media. For the second time in as many days, we were seeing the police assassinate a black man – this time, in front of his girlfriend and child. Again, I knew that these sorts of things happened. But two videos in one week was almost too much to bear.
The whole country was in shock. It felt like there was a real chance that we might wake up together. I believed that White America might finally be able to acknowledge the violence and oppression that black folk have been experiencing at the hands of police for generations. I felt hopeful that these tragic deaths might lead to a real change of heart for white people in my country – and an era of deepened justice and freedom for my black brothers and sisters.
Following the senseless murders of five police officers in Dallas, I don’t feel so sure anymore. The whole atmosphere has changed. Racist bullies of all stripes have found the opening they need to demonize the #BlackLivesMatter movement. The window of clarity and consciousness that was opening now seems to be crashing shut.
I don’t know how we move forward at this point. I can’t tell anyone how we clean up a mess this deadly, one that spans generations and continents. What I do know is that courageous black folk are going to continue to insist that black lives matter, too. The rest of us have a choice as to whether we are going to listen and respond in love.
White folk like me are being challenged to answer whether we will continue to lift our voices in support of full equality under the law for all black people – regardless of how the media portrays them as “deserving” or “undeserving” of freedom. Will we have the courage to embrace the discomfort that comes with the systemic change and spiritual transformation that this country so desperately needs?
This has been a devastating week. Our hearts are broken. It’s hard to know how to respond. But one thing we can say – which we must say – is that we stand with our black brothers and sisters. We recognize their struggle in the face of terror and oppression. Even if we can’t fully understand it, we must acknowledge that the pain they’ve experienced all their lives is real. We must pledge ourselves to stand as repentant sinners, partners in the work of dismantling the legacy of white supremacy that distorts our collective spirit.
Now is the time for endurance. Now is the time for boldness. Now is the time to re-commit ourselves to the struggle for justice and peace in our streets – whatever may come.