Seeing these black men killed was a numbing feeling. I didn't know what emotion to have. I wasn't angry. I was sad that people lost their lives and sad that this violence is just going to be piled up on top of the other violence we have experienced. Nothing will change. Nothing will change. I wrote a post about being a person of color in America, but being a black man in America got to be one of the most challenging experiences.
I see my brothers and father and friends going through this process of living while being a black man. It is a tough life. I see other men wanting the black man swagger, but not their struggles or pain. Black men are most powerful and many times most hated and tend to be seen as most dangerous in American society. That is a heavy crown to bear.
It started with the death of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and not 24 hours later, another killing by an officer of black man, Philando Castile. This violence was not new. Only that it was caught on camera and shared on such a large platform changed the story and made us have to talk, argue, protest and cry outwardly about it.
America was taken aback for a moment and were in outrage. People took to the streets, but that energy and desire for change was quickly forgotten once the lives of police officers were taken. First in Dallas, by a black man who was once a solider, then again in Baton Rouge, but another former solider who was also black. I could not ignore how many American issues were wrapped up in these days of violence. Not only the way we treat black men, but the horrible way we treat police officers and our soldiers.
Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter and All Lives Matter seem to really mean nothing matter and the black man who for a moment may have gotten some universal understanding was pushed back into that too familiar place.
All of this nonsense can be traced to the need of changing narratives about black men, police offices and soldiers and after changing the narrative, supporting these groups as they should be.
Officers in my community are seen as protectors, but they are also seen as punishers by some. From the 40s, 50s and 60s, police officers used the power they were given to treat people of color as less than human. They were mimicking what was going on in the rest of America. Sometimes those encounters ended in violence and even death and too many times those encounters and deaths were overlooked and not questioned. People of color, specifically black people, began to see officers as enemies and people you could not trust. Some blacks tried to change this by becoming part of the force. That desire to protect their own communities and to remove the threat of white police officers in colorful communities moved a lot of men and women of color to become officers. The problem is the narrative about officers did not change and sometimes these people of color that joined the police force were looked at as traders and not as the activist they were, trying to change the system from the inside. Rejected by their community, they connected with the honor and beliefs of the police force.
The Vietnam War created a disdain in the hearts and souls of Americans for war. In the 70s when vets returned, they had to hide their service and their identity and not wear their uniforms for fear of being attacked verbally and physically by fellow Americans. This was the first war where soldiers were not held as heroes. My father was one of those men. How awful that must have be to go fight a war and to come back to ridicule, dislike and distrust. As we protest war and soldiers we negated supporting soldiers emotionally, ensuring they were taken care of and had jobs and homes and full lives. We isolated this group from American society. Many of them ended up homeless on the streets, in mental institutions, in our prisons, or with their families in silence, not talking about what they experienced or feel. Many of the wars since then have not been completely supported by American society. We have learned not to blame the solider and treat them unfairly, but what we have not learned is the correct way to transition soliders from war to community and sometimes, we continue to isolate this community, creating soliders that may violently lash out at themselves, at others or at who they see as enemies.
The narrative of the black man can be traced from slavery. "Black men are dangerous animals" evolve to "Black men want our white women, we must protect our women from them", evolves again into "Black men are criminals, we must jail them to make our community safe." These narratives stay and are repeated until they were stored in the American subconscious and shared with new generations. These thoughts are carried by whites, blacks and sometimes officers and the result is the violence we are experiencing. I saw a particular sheriff from Wisconsin spew a narrative about black on black crime. How much crime black neighborhoods have and how blacks are dangerous, yet he said nothing about why that violence exist. He says nothing about the lack of opportunity in these neighborhoods. He didn't share that inequality decreased the number of persons in black community from receiving education or having the resources to get an education that could pulled them out of neighborhoods like this. He didn't talk about the lack of transportation trapping people because of their financial limitations. Some people of color work hard in spite of all of these challenges and get out of the cycle. This sheriff was probably one of them, but that narrative about black crime coming out of a black police officer again was a blow to changing the narrative of the black man and the blue officer.
America is a systemically racists place but what I think is worse is that we are not comfortable questioning our beliefs and opening ourselves to cultivating different beliefs when facts, experiences and even emotions tell we should. We suck at that and that is why socially, we are behind compared to other parts of the world.
What we saw in Dallas and Baton Rouge is the culmination of narrations coming together creating a violent end to a chapter in our America story. An end that we could have stopped if we talked to each other, released old beliefs and supported truth.
Change the narrative and we can change our nation.