Two more black men have died, and their stories have been highly profiled in the news this week. Both men were killed by police officers, and I consider their deaths to be further examples of systemic bias.
This shouldn’t feel so familiar. Those words could have been written about several other weeks this year.
I went back and added those words, “I consider,” because the highly charged political backlash following these events begins to affect how I speak. Somehow we can’t look at these incidents and agree: the deaths of human beings are tragedies, they happen too often, and we want to do something about preventing more of them. Instead, one group points out the character flaws of the men who have died, ignores the statistics about treatment of people of color in police custody, and irrelevantly and inconsiderately posts pro-police memes. Another group ignorantly assumes all police officers are evil racists, calls for violence, and spreads more hate. The more moderate group might say not all police are evil, but there is definite systemic racial bias which leads to excessive force. They might attempt to push people towards having conversations about reconciliation that leads to real change; however, their voices are drowned out by all the anger and insults. And then in a few days, all the voices are quieted by apathy or the newest shocking story.
And so this cycle continues, in which some good things are said, some horrible things are said, but really not much has changed. Thus, we are increasingly less shocked and surprised when these events continue to happen, but increasingly discouraged and frustrated, knowing our voices are not being heard and not knowing what we can do.
I could talk about racism and oppression, wounds that have never been fully addressed or healed in our nation. I could talk about how politicized our news is, how it grows increasingly difficult to access anything that is factual, separated from opinions and emotions. But I have, and lots of people have, and I’m tired.
Two men have died, and we know they leave behind bereaved family members and friends, grieving communities, unanswered questions, new investigations. I’m really tired of people being unwilling to set their political agendas aside for a moment to be sorrowful about these lives that are over. It makes me so sick, sad, and angry that the name-calling and the picking sides starts immediately, that most people come to each incident already knowing what they will believe about it.
I wish I could be more optimistic, to hope that we will learn from this, that it will create a dialogue helping us to learn how to decrease the violence. But I’m getting caught in the cycle of discouragement, gearing up to face the next new tragedy, the next wave of violence.