As my sons slept, was their country tearing itself apart?
Over the last few days, I’ve literally seen the last living moments of two black men broadcast across the nation. I’m not sure what’s more shocking: the fact that both deaths seemed avoidable or that millions of people watched them die. “Snuff films” used to be nightmare material; now, they play on millions of phones in an instant.
As my wife turned in, she remarked, “It just isn’t right that some babies aren’t as safe as mine because of the color of their skin.”
She’s right. But there’s so much more piled on top of it.
The graphic deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile at the hands of police are shocking. Americans are angry and it seems to be boiling over. When the headline flashed that Dallas officers had been killed in an ambush-style shooting, I felt it in the pit of my stomach.
Are we watching our already-divided nation actually start to tear? Is this the nation we’ll leave to my sleeping sons — to your children?
So many of our friends and neighbors genuinely believe they don’t get a fair shake with law enforcement on account of their skin color. That alone should be addressed by all of us. That’s not a black thing; it’s a national problem. It’s also not helpful or conciliatory for a white man like me, who feels completely comfortable with police, to tell a black person their fears aren’t likely to materialize.
Instead, we need to do what it takes to respond in a way that brings us together. Nobody should be scared for his or her life because of an interaction with police, and it’s clearly unhelpful for law enforcement to be at odds with people they’re trying to protect and serve.
To compound the situation, our law-enforcement communities felt besieged before any shots were fired in Dallas. After tonight, who could blame any one of them for wondering if they were going to be the next target? What if their calling to serve isn’t enough to overcome having their every move second-guessed?
We want law enforcement. What if the “thin blue line” weren’t there to confront risky situations? That’s an unacceptable possibility.
Sadly, we see far too many examples of media personalities, politicians and pundits who take advantage of turning us against each other. But this isn’t about them.
We’re the ones who let ourselves sip the deadly elixir of having our perspectives affirmed while making villains of people we disagree with or don’t understand. It’s not that complicated. We know how we ought to treat each other; many of us simply aren’t doing it.
We can’t let this tear widen.
Nobody is coming to our rescue — there’s no political messiah to lead us out. It’s not a matter of some grand public policy or single solution; it’s what we do with the situations right in front of us. My boys are getting up, and I’m going to hold them tight and teach them what’s good in this world. The words of Micah 6:8 are fresh on my heart: “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Hopefully my family will meet those requirements. What will you do?