OPINION COLUMNS

When will the killing stop?

By Racey Burden | Published Saturday, July 9, 2016
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By all accounts, Thursday night in downtown Dallas started out peaceful.

Protesters, gathered to take a stand against police brutality, told the Dallas Morning News there was no animosity between them and the police. They tweeted that members of the Dallas Police Department were taking pictures with them and joking around.

Then shots rang out, and everyone ran.

Racey Burden

Racey Burden

I saw a video with gunshots in the distance posted on Twitter last night, right before I went to sleep. This was before anyone really knew what was happening. Being naive, even in this day and age of a mass shooting every week, my first thought was: ‘This is probably unrelated to the protest. Maybe it’s a robbery or some other random crime.’ Dallas might be more peaceful than some cities, but it’s still a city. There’s going to be prevalent crime at night.

Then of course, I saw the real news in the morning, and five officers, one from Dallas Area Rapid Transit and the rest DPD, were dead. As I wrote this, only one had been identified – DART officer Brent Thompson. Thompson married a fellow officer only two weeks ago.

I watched more videos, where the shots were clearer. They were loud and terrifying from a distance. I can’t imagine being on the ground there in downtown Dallas, as a terrified protester running for their life or as an officer running into the fray, ready or not.

There have been so many videos of death this week. These videos of gunshots in downtown Dallas follow those documenting the shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, horrifying videos I couldn’t watch all the way through. They follow videos of the grieving families of those two men, and soon, I’m sure, all of these will be followed by videos of the grieving families of the officers killed last night.

I feel like I see crying loved ones every time I check the news. I’m so tired of it. Aren’t we all tired of it?

I could write separate articles on this country and gun violence, this country and racism, this country and Islamophobia, this country and general xenophobia, this country and violence against the LGBT community, this country and violence against women – this country is so broken, and it breaks my heart. Doesn’t it break yours, to watch almost every day as some new innocent person loses their life in an act of senseless violence?

I don’t have the heart right now, frankly, to try to tackle all the things I’ve listed above. Maybe some other day, maybe when it’s less fresh. Maybe when we get more than 12 hours between the next tragedy.

Last night is such a good example of both the extremes that exist in America right now. A police force with a good reputation stood to protect protesters who were peacefully asking for much-needed change. Everyone respected one another. Everything was fine. Everyone was getting along.

Then sniper fire started raining down bullets on the protesters and the police from a parking garage, and we forgot the good that could be done when we stand together for what’s right.

According to the DMN Friday morning, one suspect has been openly identified by the DPD, a man named Micah Johnson who was killed at the scene. Dallas Police Chief David Brown told news outlets that Johnson, a black man, wanted to kill white police. Johnson also said he wasn’t affiliated with any groups and he acted alone.

I’m afraid that last admission won’t matter, and more distrust will be bred between us all. I’m afraid the cracks of racial tension in America will continue to spread into an ever-widening chasm. I hope we can breach it.

Personally, I will continue to support Black Lives Matter because the black community in this country is afraid, and so many incidences of police brutality prove they have right to be. They need to be heard; they’re tired of dying for something as simple as reaching for a license. It takes incredible courage to stand up to a system that seems to be constantly shoving you down. I don’t know what that kind of courage is like.

And I will continue to support police officers who do right by the citizens they’re called to protect, who run toward the fire like those brave men and women did in Dallas last night. Many of them must have thought they wouldn’t make it out alive, and they did their job anyway. What incredible courage to put yourself in harm’s way to protect others, people you don’t even know. I don’t know what that kind of courage is like, either.

My support doesn’t have to be either or. I can recognize violence comes from all places, but so does bravery, so does love.

I can stand up and say, “We need reform in law enforcement; we need to protect black lives against the racial bias that will end them.” I can condemn the officers who shot Castile and Sterling and so many other black citizens and still believe that most police officers are good people doing their best in an incredibly difficult job.

I can condemn Johnson for shooting at innocent people (both black and white) and for killing officers who were just doing their jobs, without trying to blame his actions on the black community who just want to feel safe in their own country.

Can’t we all try our best to see each other as human beings? Is that really too much to ask?

Racey Burden is a Messenger reporter.

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