People were lining up to hug police officers in Dallas last night. It was a stark contrast to elsewhere in the nation, where Black Lives Matter chose to go on with their protests in nearly every major city, and chose to keep their chant, “No justice, no peace.” Tone-def.
This in the wake of 5 officers kills and 7 wounded in Dallas, and a similar incident in Tennessee where a former black vet started buck-shooting victims at a hotel and on the streets. Like the Dallas shooter, the Tennessee man had just one agenda: kill whitey.
For a few days before the Dallas event, I was seeing all sorts of commentary on Twitter and Faceback from black friends and others I follow. The tension was rising by the hour. People were expressing their anger and their rage, and posting shit like “I’m going to marry a black man and love and live him and love him because this world surely don’t” to “I don’t think America gon get it unless white blood gets spilt.” The rhetoric was escalating constantly, and growing in amplification.
Black people are upset, understandably, that there are so many reports of black men getting killed by cops. They started out with the cultural critiques that the justice system is racist, and that these shooting incidents were evidence of such. They created a group, Black Lives Matter, that seeks to amplify these incidents when then happen. They get a lot of black people whipped up into a frenzy to protest against police brutality.
What they aren’t accounting for is the effect this onslaught of pumping the prime of fear is having on young black people. The Black Twitterverse is like a national Main Street that many black people cruise. If all they hear on the vine is that another black man was shot–even if it turns out to be a justifiable shooting–then their fear and pain escalates.
Keep in mind that, yes, there is a lot of death among certain segments of the larger black diaspora in America, though these deaths are often attributable to crime in the community and the lifestyle choices poor young black men are making. Doesn’t it seem reasonable that they would connect all of these dots in the middle of a whirlwind of amplified rhetoric, and feel like they are at risk? And do all people at risk correctly identify the source of the risk? No, and definitely not if the persons posing the most risk are people you encounter in your own homes or neighborhoods, or if you yourself are doing things that create this risk. Rare is the individual who can master that kind of accountability for themselves or for their neighborhoods. I don’t blame most people in this; they are merely reacting to something that has been presented in such a way as to provoke their ire.
So while the fear of all the killing in the black community is creating a profound fear of outsiders and amplifying the true risk, it is deliberately spun in such a way to make the people least likely to do it the most responsible for it. It’s a special kind of hate that gets replicated mindlessly, thus amplified, and then we get the kind of escalation we saw in Dallas. What it looks like is a desire to get rid of policing in general.
Most white people, on the other side, tend to be sympathetic when these cop-kills stories come out, and they can support things like better training for police officers, the notions behind community policing, etc. Where their fear comes in is that they recognize the value of police officers, and they want good police on the ground. They know that there are some very evil, criminally minded people, and police are necessary to protect law-abiders from these kinds of people. But they perceive, based on the reckless, amplified message coming from BLM and its supporters, that the end goal is either no police force, or a police force without guns. When you see people hashtagging #AllLivesMatter or #BlueLivesMatter, this is the fear they are expressing.
Just as with the Black Twitterverse amplifiers, these white folks have justifiable fear. Society will break down without any kind of policing. The end game is Anarchy, of course. They are not always very sophisticated in expressing their fear, and especially on Twitter, the conventional tone seems to be inchoate rage. So they express things hostilely that would be much better communicated with reasons, and the whole thing escalates even more.
That’s what I’m seeing a lot of. It frustrated me to no end to hear Loretta Lynch try to talk about one America with shared lives and experiences, because that is not true. There are 4 or 5 Americas and the boundary lines fall around geographical differences (urban vs rural vs suburban), class (rich, middle, working class, and poor), and around other demographic identities such as race, sexual orientation, religion, political allegiances, etc.
We’re not going to get past this until we can break various logjams set up across our vast national culture. Yes, better training for cops. But also better training for young people today so they can see that we literally do no live in the 1950s anymore, that most of their lives are better, and equal to other Americans. Greater communication and fewer judgement about people who are different from you would help. This applies to the disgusting prejudges expressed about people living in the south or in rural areas. More exposure to people who are not like you, who are not white, black, Asian, Hispanic, Catholic, Baptist, Muslim, atheist, hillbilly, suburbanite, urbanite–these would be a start.
We like to believe the story of America being a melting pot, and it’s a beautiful dream. But it will never come to fruition as long we continue to self-segregate and scream past each other. Dallas got it right today. Faced with a terrible evil, they diffused it in a timely fashion, minimizing the loss of life. In the aftermath, they came together from all walks of life to express their common humanity and grieve together over those lost. May it be a lesson and model for us all.