This morning I awoke to a scene of carnage on the front page of every news site and interweaved in the social media feeds of my friends. What happened in Dallas is hard to comprehend. As a daughter of a retired police officer I know only too well the risk these men take every day when they walk out the door. Even in the quieter towns, the reality that my father might not walk back through that door at the end of the day was always in the back of my mind.
The fact that the Dallas attack took place during a peaceful protest, one meant to combat the systemic violence we see in todays’ America, is all the more infuriating. It makes it extremely difficult to look around and think that the America I live in is a safe haven; one where I can walk easily down the street at night without fear of attack.
A lot has been happening this past week. In my current town of San Diego one man, identified as Anthony Padgett, has been going around attacking the homeless. He has stabbed them, beat them, and even set them on fire. Lives have been lost and the fact that one of the more vulnerable populations in our country is the target of such brutality is saddening.
Then you have the deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge on Tuesday and Philando Castile in Minnesota on Wednesday. Both men were black and both were unjustly shot and killed by police officers. Following the video evidence, there isn’t a question that neither of these men should have lost their lives, especially at the hands of those sworn to protect them.
All of these incidents point to an underlying issue in America – violence. Despite being one of the richest and most advanced countries in the world, we are also one plagued by a culture of violence. Our country emerged out of a violent revolution and since then we have both experienced and tolerated unmatched levels of violence. And much like our past, in today’s America, violence is focused on the poor, vulnerable, and non-white populations.
Now before any of you jump to statements like “look at Dallas!” understand I do recognize the horribleness of what has happened there. I’m not discounting the incident or dismissing it. But I want to look at the overall picture here, and that is that we have a problem with how America both profits off of and venerates violence. This is no more evident than in America’s gun culture and police and public interpretation and treatment of the black community.
Americans are able to access and use weapons, specifically “high-powered, high-capacity firearms to carry out mass shootings”, with very little reaction from government officials to curb said violence. Instead, it is found that following mass shootings, gun laws are actually weakened instead of bolstered. I don’t think this can be said enough, but America is the only advanced county in the world where mass shootings happen on a regular, tolerated basis. Until we recognize this, and push back against those who refuse to acknowledge the issue (i.e. NRA), only then can we move forward with doing something about it.
And what Dallas showed is that, once again, someone who was angry was easily able to get their hands on militarized weapons and use them to end innocent lives in a quick and efficient manner. Gun ownership should be treated as a privilege. Instead, America treats guns as a sacred right that has led to an increase in ownership with very little regulation. This is unacceptable. Like anything else that puts lives other than our own at risk, guns should be held to a high degree of regulation, licensing, and registration. This won’t end all violence but it will stop some of it. And isn’t that what matters?
And finally, a trend that quickly took shape this morning is that some people have been quick to blame the Black Lives Matter movement as the cause for what happened in Dallas. Let’s be clear about this – men unaffiliated with the group bought assault rifles, set IEDs throughout the area, and then proceeded to indiscriminately shoot into the crowds, killing and wounding both police officers and civilians. And yet, instead of joining in solidarity and condemning the actions of these men, some chose to point fingers in the opposite direction.
Not only is that entirely untrue but it adds to a dangerous and erroneous narrative that the black community, and by extension non-white communities, are responsible for the majority of gun violence in America. This is a narrative that has been used over and over again to dismantle gun laws and to flame racist, nativism for votes. Trump’s generalization of Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and “murderers” and Muslim citizens as “terrorists” and the support he has received from a segment of the population is just one example.
The Black Lives Matter movement is first and foremost a peaceful movement. Its existence came about because not much national attention has been paid to the continued violence and stereotyping that the black community faces by police and the public. Its purpose is for civic engagement with the government and public to break apart these stereotypes and to eradicate institutionalized violence. To lay the blame of what happened in Dallas at their feet is part of the larger practice of America viewing the black community as violent thugs.
The type of scapegoating used against the black community and the idiotic indifference and outright refusal of politicians and people in power to recognize that both intuitional and cultural violence is a major issue in America has to stop. We need to look at the hard reality of it all and accept that things have to change. If we don’t, then each day will bring about another tragedy and another innocent life lost that should never have been in harm’s way in the first place.