It’s one thing to wake up to a tragic shooting one day, but three days straight is mind-boggling. When will enough be enough?
After reading what happened to Alton Sterling on Wednesday and Philando Castile on Thursday, my heart was filled with so much hurt and pain. I can’t imagine going through or witnessing such a gruesome experience; I could only offer up a prayer for these men and their families and pray that this never happens to anyone in my own black American family. No words of comfort or amount of encouragement could calm the emotional storm.
The storm continued at work. Here at Teaching Tolerance, we have an agape love for our youth and those who are treated unjustly and unfairly. Agape means a universal, unconditional love. We see you, we hear you and we feel your pain.
Millions of parents in this country work hard to raise and provide for their kids, knowing they can’t trust the people who are supposed to protect them. What if we can’t get to our children if there’s an accident, an incident or even if their taillights go out? We just have to be afraid and hope that the officers who respond don’t fear for their lives or see our black children as targets.
This morning, I woke to the news of the sniper targeting police in Dallas, and my heart broke yet again. There are many genuine police officers on the street, risking their lives for ours every day, trying to make a difference; I refuse to believe that a few bad apples spoil the bunch. We have to use wisdom and understand that these men and women also have families who anxiously wait for them to come home after every shift. My prayers are with the fallen police officers in Dallas, too, and every officer who lives to serve and protect honestly.
The fact remains that we live in a country where police brutality—particularly in black American communities—happens regularly. We need the many good officers out there to expose their colleagues who harbor racial bias and hold them accountable. The Guardian reports that 561 people have died at the hands of law enforcement officers in 2016; a massively disproportionate number of those people were black males. We hear people proclaim, “All lives matter,” and I agree that is true—but it’s black people who are being targeted. Until more people understand that, nothing will change.
How can we explain these facts to children? What types of conversation are we to have with our kids when being themselves could cost them their lives? We’re living in a time when things are so bad that we have to video record ourselves while being pulled over because we don’t know what the outcome may be.
My cousin asked me the other day, “How can I protect my child without smothering him?” My response was, “I don’t have an answer.” These are tough conversations to have with our kids and students, but this conversation must happen. We cannot continue to sweep these issues under the rug. Where do we go from here? Talk about Alton Sterling. Teach about Philando Castile. Talk about the officers who lost their lives in Dallas. Don’t stay silent even if it feels like the same thing again and again—until every citizen is truly protected and served.
Editor’s note: Teaching Tolerance has compiled an updated list of teaching materials to assist with the difficult conversations described in this blog post.
Jones is the administrative assistant for Teaching Tolerance.