Artwork by Penelope Dullaghan via Instagram
I normally try to avoid the news as much as possible. After eight years of working for the Federal government and thirteen years of living in DC, I often feel like I’ve had a lifetime’s fill of news. But when the news started pouring in about Alton Sterling and Philando Castile on Thursday, it couldn’t be escaped. Then came Dallas. I haven’t been able to think about much else since. Normally I don’t talk about big social issues here, because I try to make this website a bright spot in your day. But going forward without acknowledging all the heartache this past week feels wrong to me. We’ll get back to the pretty stuff tomorrow.
I’ve been a ball of emotion since Thursday: anger, grief, horror, sorrow, regret. My heart aches for the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and for the families of the police officers killed in Dallas on Thursday. And I’ve had a hard time putting those thoughts and emotions into words, so it’s taken me a while to be able to write anything that I felt comfortable sharing with all of you. And there’s still so much more that I want to say but don’t yet know how to say. I don’t know how we got to this place. Where the use of lethal force by the police has become almost routine. I support our police officers and law enforcement, and I’m grateful for the very difficult work that they do every day. There are many amazing police officers doing great work around the country – including right here in my town of Washington, DC – but we need change in the places where it isn’t happening. Men should not be shot during a routine traffic stop in front of a four year old girl sitting in the back seat. Police officers should not shoot drunk drivers as they crawl out of the wreckage of a crashed car. Flash grenades should not be tossed into a crib during a drug raid. The frequency with which police use lethal force – with near-zero accountability – is staggering.
The police are here to protect and serve the community. And that means people of every color within that community. When black people are treated differently just because of the color of their skin, it’s wrong. And if the rest of us don’t stand up to acknowledge the problem and demand change, then we’re part of the problem. Supporting Black Lives Matter shouldn’t be about being anti-police or anti-white, it should be about demanding equal treatment and respect for all members of our community.
Writing statements of support on a blog or social media feels almost silly when I think about the scale of this problem. But if we don’t say anything, if we don’t talk about it, if we don’t acknowledge that there is a problem, we can’t fix it. I don’t have the answers to the larger issue of race and injustice in our country, but I do believe we have the power to make things better. Maybe it’s my policy background, but I think there are real things we can do to help. To push for change in our local police forces. To stand up for justice on all sides and demand accountability when the police do the wrong thing. To talk to each other so that we can feel more empathy towards each other.
Artwork by Kal Barteski via Instagram
Silence and complacency are easy. Cultural change is not easy. But as long as we keep choosing what is easy, people will continue to die. We can support Black Lives Matter and work for positive change in our police. These things are not mutually exclusive, but they require action. Write letters to your local elected officials. Attend local council meetings and police community meetings. If you don’t have those meetings in your area, work with your local council members and community leaders to organize them. If we don’t show up and make our voices of support heard within our communities, nothing will change.
Thanks for listening.