Tensions are running unbelievably high following the numerous tragedies in the past week: Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the shocking shooting of 11 police officers in Dallas, Texas during a protest against police brutality.
It’s become extremely difficult to process the growing sense of helplessness and despair following these continuous tragedies; however, one tweet perfectly put the public’s general feelings into perspective.
Erin Simpson wrote simply that, “I don't want black men shot at traffic stops. I don't want cops shot by snipers. I don't want kids shot at school. I don't want any of this.”
I don't want black men shot at traffic stops. I don't want cops shot by snipers. I don't want kids shot at school. I don't want any of this.— EM Simpson (@charlie_simpson) July 8, 2016
With the growing, contentious divide between activists in Black Lives Matter and staunch police defenders, Simpson’s words give a more macro view of these events. None of this should be happening—we should absolutely not be experiencing perpetual violence at this level.
There are two separate issues at hand: the institutional racism that has driven, and continues to drive, instances of police brutality, and the fact that access to guns in America is absurdly easy, leading to individuals such as Dallas sniper Micah Johnson and Orlando shooter Omar Mateen murdering innocents.
The Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas was an exercise of the First Amendment in the best possible way, using a peaceful demonstration to loudly dissent against the racially-motivated, unnecessary deaths of Sterling and Castile. In fact, before the sniper opened fire, police officers were cheerfully taking pictures with protesters and readily supporting their right to protest for justice.
The concern the Black Lives Matter movement has with police is still completely valid. One man choosing to express his anger in a terrible, devastating way does not change this.
BLM underscored this with a message on Twitter:
#BlackLivesMatter advocates dignity, justice and freedom. Not murder.— Black Lives Matter (@Blklivesmatter) July 8, 2016
Johnson’s ability to open fire on innocent police officers is an indictment of our gun laws more than anything else. The Congressional Black Caucus addressed this aspect on Friday morning, calling for an immediate vote on gun control.
“Republicans, what on earth? Why are you recoiling and not giving us a debate on gun violence?” Chairman G.K. Butterfield said. “We need legislative action now.”
The intersection of these two issues—police brutality and gun violence—makes it difficult to have a rational discussion of the fact that they are both crucial concerns for America. Johnson’s reason behind the shooting does not negate what others in the BLM movement have fought to have a national conversation about.
America is facing a decisive crossroads, and the direction the country chooses to go in determines if we continue to witness such incidents in the future.
Banner Image Credit: Twitter, @Variety