A popular hashtag in the wake of tragedy is “#WeAre[insert name of person/location].” Maybe it’s slacktivism, but I’ve always appreciated them. They convey unity, solidarity, and the acknowledgement that while this particular event happened there, it can just as easily happen here. I think those are important messages to send to suffering families and communities.
But these hashtags take on a different meaning when you actually ARE that community.
When your friends are attending the protest that was so peaceful and powerful until it wasn’t.
When your husband can’t go to work because his downtown office is closed as part of an active crime scene.
When you are dropping off flowers at your neighborhood police station because one of its officers, one who has likely been at community events or patrolling your street, is announced as one of the fallen and they have set up a squad car as a memorial.
When you hear the ages of a slain officer’s kids and wonder if they play at the same parks as yours.
Of course my reactions are not the ones that matter. It is the victims, their families and the fellow officers whose lives are now divided into a “before” and “after.”
At least once a day I look at my two boys and go down a laundry list in my head of all the horrible things that could befall them and how I wouldn’t be able to survive it. But one thing I never have to worry about is them being the victim of police brutality or murder due to the color of their skin (or mourning the loss of their father for the same reason). I wish I could do something more for my friends who do not have the privilege of this comfort. I wish I knew what to do that truly matters and truly effects change. I’ve read all of the articles — and I will continue to do so — but nothing seems like enough.
I will not pretend to analyze or discuss in depth the sociological and institutional context of police-involved shootings of black people. But there are really smart people who can and I hope you will read their writings. And if you are white, please educate yourself about white privilege — what it means and what it doesn’t. I’m still learning, still catching myself when I shift to a defensive or resistant stance. It’s okay to have that reaction, just keep going. A couple of brief, initial reads are this post and this essay.
I’m disheartened that we have to explain that saying black lives matter is not the same as saying other lives don’t. That demanding deep-rooted change in our local police forces is not the same as saying we don’t value and respect the sacrifice officers make every day to keep communities safe. I’m saddened when I picture my friends sitting down with their non-white children to tell them that some people will not only judge you based on the color of your skin, but shoot you while you reach for your license and registration.
I know it starts with our local communities. Which for me, circles back to Dallas. My hometown. The place I hurried back to after four years in the Midwest for college. The city that gets a bad rap for being superficial and money-obsessed (thanks Bravo), but is coming together like all communities tend to do after terror threatens them. It’s hard not to smile watching citizens line up to hug a cop yesterday.
It’s been about 24 hours since I woke up to the news of the fifth police officer announced dead. Forgive the lack of eloquence in this post. I am a slow writer who usually needs to marinate on a post. But the news moves quickly. And sadly, a new “WeAre” hashtag will likely be trending soon.
In the meantime, I am Dallas Strong.