Friday, July 08, 2016

Journal Entry: Fear is the Enemy

Last night I was too afraid to leave my house to buy cigarettes. With the news of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile dominating my news feed, I was scared. Not too scared to leave my house at all, just afraid enough to question the cost-benefit balance to wonder if it made buying cigarettes very unimportant. I woke up this morning to news of five police officers being shot in Dallas and I worried even more.  I've been avoiding the news for fear of being afraid. I mean I am scared and angry and worried about how things could escalate into chaos, but this is the world I have always lived in. I may be scared now, but the violence against black men isn’t a new phenomenon. It’s just coming into focus.

All of this seems to be because of smartphones. I learned the video of Alton Sterling’s death was shot by members of a group dedicated to following the police and listening to scanners. Volunteers of Stop Killing Us Inc go to the scenes of arrests to make sure cops are being held accountable. I imagine that they’ve witnessed hundreds of routine arrests without much to report. As disturbing as the killing was to watch, the shocked gasps and tears of the videographer is what stays with me now. Because of their actions, the rest of the world got to bear witness to something most times goes unseen. When Philando Castile's girlfriend witnessed her boyfriend being shot by police, she went on Facebook to do a live stream of his death. The world is is the same, what's changing is just how much we are witnessing things we would have never heard about.

So with the lens zoomed in so close on our brothers getting killed, it’s hard to have a real idea of what a solution is. Maybe now isn’t the time to look for solutions. Maybe right now we need to get angry and scared so this moment will stay in our memories when the political fights get tough and other facts of life distract us. There will be time to zoom out later and figure out why so many people are afraid of black men. There will be time to see the bigger picture after we’re out of our feelings. Looking at things so close, the solutions people are offering seem ineffectual and best and at worst they seem dangerous and short-sighted. More body cams don’t work and the checks and balances of the state seem to have failed. One thing we might try to get more qualified officers with better training, more screening and better pay for those who demonstrate their competency. If someone on the force proves their ability to consistently defuse violent situations without guns shouldn't they be rewarded more? Those who resort to violence without first exhausting other methods should be punished severely.  Even with those measures, there is the bigger issue of systemic inequality that fuels violence in the inner city. The reason cops are scared of black people is because we live in war zones. So people aren’t ready for the reality of the inner city and nothing so far is making the lives of people who live there safer from the root of the problem.

Call your friends tonight and tell them you love them. Fear is what killed those men, fear is what prompted the shooters to target police. Fear for themselves, their families and their country. Tell the people you love that you're their for them. Tell them that they’re going to be okay and that we’ll get through this together, not only because it’s the truth, but because love is the opposite of fear. The only way we can get to solutions is to move past the fear and anger Love. It's the only way we're going to get down to the root of the problem and discover what might actually work to change the bigger picture.
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