Current events have been reduced to a matter of a few quips preceded by a hashtag to pound the statement into profoundness. But, communication does not end there.
Our newsroom was silenced by national headlines this past week. Questions surrounding the actions of police officers against black men. Shaking our heads over the murder of police officers in Dallas. Where’s it all come from, and where is it all leading us. We sat in a circle, more because that’s how the newsroom is situated, but it could very well have been a proverbial circling of the wagons.
A lot of dust has been kicked up. The killing of five Dallas police officers happened 1,650 miles away from Albany County, but the circumstances surrounding the event speaks to a universal issue. The protest in which those officers were safeguarding was in response to the shootings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling — two black men killed by white police officers, but not Dallas Police officers. Castile was 947 miles away from Dallas, in Falcon Heights, Minn. Sterling was 430 miles away in Baton Rogue, La. No apparent ties, except for one. There’s a problem when a lot of dust hangs in the air of confounded place. It becomes explosive.
Then, a black man was found hanging from a tree in Atlanta.
Eight years ago this country voted in the first black President of the United States. The jubilation from that November night through the months leading to Barack Obama’s inauguration that following January. It wasn’t just one man’s victory, nor was it a simple win for the Democratic Party. A threshold had been breached. People cried tears of joy. Others spoke of hope. That hope, as spoken by Maya Angelou as Obama was sworn into office, was shared by all. Including John Coleman, the drum leader out of Cleveland who winked at the newly sworn in President as he marked his band down the street.
The 2008 presidential election signified the maturation of this county. Generations of prejudice towards each other, by skin color, heritage and sexual preference, was disappearing. Martin Luther King’s dream was coming to light. This was the dawning of a new morning.
Now here we are:
“I join those mourning the death of five officers in Dallas during last night’s peaceful protest. This tragedy tears at the heart of every American of every race. Now, more than ever, we must put aside differences and come together as a nation. This was a despicable act of violence perpetrated against those who protect citizens. As Americans we all share in the grief for those killed, their loved ones and their fellow officers. I remain hopeful that we will work together to breach the divide and restore calm and civility in our communities. This is a difficult task, but I believe that by working together we can bring peace and harmony to our nation.”
— Dan McCoy
Albany County Executive
“We are one nation. We are one state. We celebrate the differences, and we celebrate the diversity. We’ve come as far as we’ve come because we’ve focused on the commonalities and the similarities, not on the differences. We find ways to build bridges and not build walls among each other. Join me, please. Let’s take a moment of silence for the lives that have been lost over the past few days, and for those who are inclined, say a prayer that the worst is behind us.”
— Andrew Cuomo
New York State Governor
We are quick to judge. Social media gives us all a platform upon which to stand, to voice out opinions on which we are often ill equipped. We watch videos like Monday morning quarterbacks. We share meme’s from people we don’t know, on information we don’t research, with pictures from origins we don’t know. And, corporate-owned, late-breaking, 24-7 broadcast journalism sometimes doesn’t help either.
When communication is most important, careless words are damaging. They tear people apart and build up barriers. “Black Lives Matter” is pit against “All Lives Matter.” People expressing support for law enforcement are branded racists. All before talking with, and listening to, each other.
Have atrocities occurred? Yes.
Is there racism in the world? Unfortunately, yes.
Is that person with different colored skin than you really your enemy?
“Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love,” King said in 1958. In the ten years that would follow before his assassination, King was met with hate and adversity, yet he persevered and his voice grew louder, his congregation grew stronger. What you put into the world, comes back to you. Generations of children have been born and learned about King and his words. We are so close.
No. That person is not your enemy. We are all a few branches off the same family tree. Black, white, Muslim, Christian, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish — we are family.
Families fight. Sometimes the words we choose come from either pain or the lack of an expansive vocabulary. One can say they “accept” the other without understanding the authority implied. But, the person on the other end of the conversation that hears “accept” needs to listen, too.
We are not as divided as it all seems. We have people reaching over to pull us together. Black lives, all lives, cops lives — all matter. You are all pushing for the same cause. If you let go of the hate and the fear, and listen to the words from each side with love in your heart, you will finally hear what is being said.
Until then, we’re only reading hashtags.