It's the kind of heart-numbing horror that makes me want to crawl into a hole and cry myself to sleep.
I don't have anything like a coherent statement about all of this, although I've written about similar issues before (see here and here). This time I have a few random thoughts.
- Black Americans are killed by police at something like two to three times the rate of white Americans. (See this database from the Guardian for details).
- Sterling and Castile seem to have both been in possession of firearms when they were killed, which they were carrying entirely legally. The NRA has yet to make specific comments on either incident.
- Black Lives Matter had nothing to do with the gunman's actions in Dallas. Authorities say that the man was acting alone. No doubt numerous conspiracy theories are sprouting up about the "real" nature of the attack, and like most conspiracy theories the lack of reasons in their favor is just more fuel for the believers' fire.
- Black Lives Matter.
- If you don't know why Black Lives Matter is a thing or you think we should make it "All Lives Matter" instead, read this. Of course we all believe that all lives matter. Or we say we do. That's the problem. Unfortunately the systemic realities in the United States show that some lives matter less than others. It's important to assert that black lives matter as an effort to transform our professed belief that all lives matter into a true belief.
- White people, we need to listen to black people's perspectives. Here are a few perspectives from philosopher George Yancy, English professor Roxane Gay, science fiction author Steven Barnes, and Desert Dragon on her blog. There are a lot more perspectives out there. Find them.
- As we listen, we white people need to realize that we will never completely understand what it's like to be black in America. But this does not absolve us of the duty to try to gain what degree of understanding we can.
- Listening is hard for white people because we are assumed to be authorities on all things. The thought that there may be perspectives we don't immediately understand challenges this authority. Rather than denying that racism is an issue in the United States because it's not immediately obvious to us, we should shut up and listen.
- Yes, blue lives matter, too. We should all mourn the officers killed in Dallas. It's a tragedy.
- While individual police officers can be good or bad people who are good or bad at their jobs, we need to acknowledge that there are serious systemic issues with law enforcement in the United States.
Critical Thinking Issues
- It is possible to both care about black people and to care about police officers. It's possible to think that systemic racism exists in policing while at the same time realizing that police have a dangerous, difficult job. It's possible to respect police officers as human beings while also holding them to a higher standard when it comes to racial justice. To say otherwise is a classic logical fallacy called False Dilemma.
- Whatever you think about all this, try to have reasons for your beliefs. Try to make coherent arguments. Don't fall for bombastic fallacies, cheap shots, bigoted rhetoric, or baseless conspiracy theories. Think critically. Someone's life might depend on it.