The death of five police officers in Dallas – coming after the shootings in Baton Rouge and Minnesota – overwhelms. How to make sense of the incomprehensible? How to know what to do?
“That was horrible,” people said definitively over and over again in its wake. “People are tired of being lied to," my cousin told me by way of explanation.
But I don’t think this has anything to do with people’s disgust at being lied to unless they are fed up with the lies they tell themselves.
Rather, I think Micah Xavier Johnson is but another numbing character in the literature of rejection – a man with a disproportionate rage at life’s disappointments and cruelty. He serves in the military, and the military rejects him as unhinged. No surprise there. White police officers kill black men so he, a black man, kills white police officers.
There will always be men – and they are almost always men – like these. Indeed, Johnson is hardly the first sniper in the history of a city that was the site of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. So all the more reason to put strict limits on guns. There’s really no reason they should be in the hands of the average citizenry.
But we’ve been down this road many times before – indeed, President Barack Obama has said he will continue to push for gun control – and yet nothing ever happens. Our country, born in blood, retains its atavistic cowboy ways. And so because we live in the past – rather than with it – we jeopardize our future.
We remain stuck in one gear where race is concerned, incapable of having an honest discussion about race and race and the police. We take to social media to record and respond to events, alternately explaining and inflaming, living life at a remove. We demonize the president for either not doing enough – or saying too much – where race is concerned, risking the possibility that a man who belongs to two worlds (one black, one white) winds up belonging to neither.
We need to acknowledge what this president has said – that there has been tremendous progress on race relations. But there is still much work to be done. We need to have an honest conversation about this, police and citizens alike. We need more sensitivity training for police, and better education for the populace in general. And we need more women on police forces as they tend to diffuse explosive situations.
But most of all we need to be honest with ourselves about what has brought us to this moment – fear, prejudice, greed and an anger that we must learn to channel if we are to survive.