I write this after watching video of a black sniper in Dallas shoot a white cop in the back.
I write this after watching cellphone recordings of two more black men senselessly killed by white police, Tuesday in Baton Rouge, La., and Wednesday in Falcon Heights, Minn. Their deaths reportedly motivated the Dallas shooter’s twisted revenge – five officers dead, seven wounded.
Like many people, I am stunned.
As bad as the seemingly endless roll call of African-Americans dying in police custody has been, Dallas ups the ante. Picture a downward spiral of racially motivated attack and counterattack, the toll of innocent victims rising with the tide of violence.
It is a nightmare America cannot endure.
We cannot change what happened. We can make a statement.
My thought is a racial solidarity rally. A chance for everyone sickened by the killings of the past few days to stand up and stand together. To show we are united against all brands of violence, whether cop-on-citizen, or – in Dallas – citizen-on-cops.
I can barely manage a trip to the grocery store, much less organize a community rally. On Friday I called Rev. Darius Pridgen, city councilman and renowned unifier. He was all in. Other community leaders followed. The rally is tentatively scheduled for noon Tuesday in Niagara Square.
Be there, if you care.
“We need to have real conversations about the perceptions, feelings and experiences of others,” said Pridgen, “whether civilians or police. Passion must be controlled, so it doesn’t end up in murder.”
The deaths of African-American men at the hands of police has finally – by digital recordings spread across social media – blasted across America’s consciousness. The images confirm what many blacks insisted for years: Police brutality isn’t rare. Claims of self-defense and justifiable shootings were sometimes stories concocted to cover tracks, cover backs and even to get away with murder.
The response to video recordings of police violence usually is outrage, protests, prayers – along with calls for peace and cries for justice.
With Dallas, we add police to the list of race-related victims.
Never has it been so clear: Black or white, we are in this together.
Buffalo – and every community across America – has a chance to collectively stand up and say: Stop.
“People are waiting for cohesion,” said Pridgen. “Let’s not let what a few individuals do affect the progress we have made in this country.”
Many victims of police violence, from Ferguson to Falcon Heights, are household names, grim touchstones of America’s shame: Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Philando Castile. Add to the roll call of racially fueled casualties Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith and Michael Krol – the five Dallas cops.
I hope the assaults on police end there. Threats on social media Friday against Buffalo cops prompted a temporary return to two-officer cars.
Bullets are no substitute for benevolence. Remedies for frustration, anger and outrage cannot be delivered at the point of a gun.
“People of color need to feel safe,” said Lana Benatovich of the National Federation for Just Communities. “And the law enforcement community needs to go home safely to their families.”
Differences of color, creed, gender or sexual orientation all pale in relation to our shared humanity. We all marvel at an eagle’s flight. Share in the wonder of a magenta-tinged sunset. Sense the same elation at a child’s first step. Feel the cored-out emptiness when a loved one dies. Our commonality outweighs differences in how we look, the clothes we wear or the music we like.
The only way to defuse the growing race-related dread is to stand together, to show that this is One Buffalo – united against violence, fear and distrust.
“This is,” said Benatovich of the planned rally, “an opportunity to show who and what we are.”
I think we need to.
Republican County Legislator Kevin Hardwick was heartened by post-Ferguson police reforms, from body cams to community reach-out. Until this week.
“It was sickening, watching those [police violence] videos and thinking, ‘What the hell is going on?” said Hardwick, a Canisius College political science professor. “Then you wake up to the news in Dallas. People have to stop talking past each other.”
A rogue, racist or badly trained cop no more represents every officer than the Dallas shooter represents every African-American.
“Individuals are being abused, but we can’t paint all of law enforcement as the same,” said Benatovich, a longtime voice for social justice. “Too many good people are getting hurt.”
There will be cops at Tuesday’s planned rally to protect and serve – just as there were at Thursday’s anti-violence protest in Dallas. The hope is they will be joined by off-duty officers who share the We Are One sentiment.
“We can’t have a rally without police officers,” said Sean Ryan, the Democratic state assemblyman. “No matter who the victim is, we have to be equally outraged over senseless violence.”
I hope that a shared outrage is, ultimately, the takeaway from the horror in Dallas. I hope that, instead of pulling us further apart, it will help to bring us together.
It is time, to paraphrase Rodney King, to show that we CAN all just get along.