I’ve been away for a couple of days, so I programmed some posts to run while I was enjoying some vacation time. If anyone has been wondering why I’ve been oddly silent on the recent police homicides of black men 1, that would be why.
And then I woke up Friday morning to read about an all-out planned attack on police in Dallas.
I am broken by this news. I wish I could say I was surprised, but I’m not.
Last Fall I attended a community gathering hosted by the Palmyra Police Department and the Burlington County NAACP. It was a remarkable experience. In my reflections I remarked how, for many African Americans, the expectation is any encounter with Police means to suffer abuse. Some of these expectations are cultural, stories of indignities are passed between communities and generations. Many more of these expectations come from personal experience. Our African-American neighbors are not making this stuff up, and recent events further reveal this to be the case 2. Philando Castile even volunteered the presence of a legally licensed weapon to the officer who pulled him over for a tail like infraction – all that got him was the horror of being killed in front of his daughter and the mother of his child.
I’ve been worried for a while the cork was finally going to pop – that the injustices suffered by our African-American neighbors would lead some people to conclude the only legitimate response to a perceived illegitimate power was violence. It seems to have finally happened. At least one heavily armed person, confirmed to have been carrying a great deal of ammunition and a weapon one eye witness described as an AR-15 “plain as day,” decided to extract his own vengeance. In his anger he decided to kill police officers and white people, particularly white police officers. He is being reported as an US Army Veteran, having served in Afghanistan.
What boggles my mind is how people are taking the reported words of the suspect and are punting when asked about his motives. Take this quote from a CNN Article on the attack.
We can’t get into the head of a person that would do something like this. We negotiated with this person that seemed lucid during the negotiation. He wanted to kill officers, and he expressed killing white people, he expressed killing white officers, he expressed anger for Black Lives Matter. None of that makes sense,” Brown said. “None of that is a reason, a legitimate reason, to do harm to anyone. So the rest of it would just be speculating on what his motivations were. We just know what he said.
Now, in one respect I understand why the person quoted spoke as he did. It springs from the assumption there must have been something else which triggered such violent behavior. It would be easier if this person’s actions could be chalked up to a personality disorder, or PTSD, or some other explainable cause for abnormal behavior. It’s a response built on denial, an unwillingness to face the reality of a truly broken system. After all, if there isn’t some other underlying cause, it becomes a much more terrifying possibility. If a person who served this country looked at the news and finally became so furious with the injustice he witnessed he felt his anger had to be unleashed, then we have entered into a new loop in the cycle of violence which our African-American neighbors have been experiencing for most of this country’s history.
I weep. I weep for the African-American population of this country, which feels they are right to live in fear of the police 3. I weep for the officers gunned down while protecting the rights of citizens to protest even against their own profession. And I weep for this country, addicted to a form paranoia which feasts both on the fear of the other and reciprocal acts of violence. The only path forward is to step back and repent for our contribution this is utter mess to which we have all contributed, and live for a future where everyone really can be free.
Lord have mercy. No one else seems to have the will to extend it.