"Hands up. Don't shoot." It's a chant we've heard over and over again at Black Lives Matter protests. We heard it in Dallas on Thursday night. "Hands up. Don't shoot." And then the shooting began. Twelve police officers shot. Five police officers dead.
It's another tragedy in a week of tragedies. We saw Alton Sterling, a father of five, killed by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Tuesday. The next day, it was Philando Castile, a supervisor in the nutrition services department of a school, killed by an officer during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. Both men were black. Thursday night's protesters were speaking for them and for countless others whose names have become headlines in recent years, hashtags shared across social media.
People were angry on Thursday night. They had every right to be.
People are angry today. They have every right to be.
Already the hashtags are changing. #Dallas #BlueLivesMatter
Share them. Share them along with #BatonRouge #FalconHeights #AltonSterling #PhilandoCastile #BlackLivesMatter — not instead of.
One tragedy this week does not negate another. And while all three are intrinsically tied, one does not justify another. We can't keep doing this.
Five police officers were murdered in an act of callous hate. They were murdered by a coward who chose to disrupt a Black Lives Matter rally that was peaceful and civil. That may represent the anger palpating through our country, but it does not represent the individual people of the Black Lives Matter movement, the people who stood on a Dallas street Thursday evening, asking for the very opposite of what happened.
Their words were a call for nonviolence.
"Hands up. Don't shoot."
We should be angry today at the person who took five lives and seriously injured several more. We should be angry at the people who used an important movement, Black Lives Matter, as a chance to enact an act of hate.
We should be angry.
But we can't let that anger replace that which was already there. The deaths of Alton Sterling, of Philando Castile, of Sandra Bland, of Eric Garner, of Tamir Rice do not go away today because five police officers were murdered.
The heartbreak of this week, the desperation that sent people out onto that Dallas street to peacefully protest, those feelings cannot be tamped down as we move from one issue to the next, with the changing of the headlines.
It's especially easy for white America to do that today. Racism is not something white America likes to talk about — to face our privilege, to tangle with issues with which we have no experience. Standing up for cops gunned down is easy.
They were good guys with guns! They were running in when others ran out! They were protecting and serving! The media isn't trotting out their arrest records today to tell us how awful they were and how they must have deserved that public execution!
Oh, how easy it is to move on and find a comfortable thing to protest, to put our heads down and hide from the things that scare us.
Change has never come from taking the easy route. You don't have to choose what to be angry about today.
We can be angry at bad cops who kill innocent black people and angry at bad people who kill innocent cops. We can be angry that we live in a country where there are people being targeted not for something they've done but for what they look like.
We can be angry. But more important, we should be.
We should put our heads up so that one day the answer will be "I won't shoot."
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