[Editor's Note: This article was published before the shooting in Baton Rouge on July 17.]
So many souls lost. So many scars upon the land.
The mass shooting in Dallas, Texas, of 12 police officers that killed at least five of them followed by a day the shooting of a black man by a police officer in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota.
Which followed by a day the shooting of another black man by a police officer in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Which followed by a few weeks the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that killed 49 people.
Which followed yet another atrocity.
The tragedies in America now come with a numbing rapidity. Some horror occurs — some disturbed or angry or hateful person picks up a weapon and slaughters innocent human beings — and we all shake our heads.
We say, "Something must be done."
The temptation is strong to blame this on the National Rifle Association and the other members of the gun lobby for turning this country into a war zone.
Lord knows the gun lobbyists bear tremendous moral responsibility. They have worked to corrupt our political system so it defies public will and they tirelessly — relentlessly — have sold a message of fear to the American people. The numbers show now that fewer and fewer Americans are buying or own guns, but that the ones who do have firearms are purchasing more and more of them, in the process turning homes into weapons stockades and average citizens into walking arsenals.
(One of the suspected shooters in Dallas was carrying so much weaponry that the ammunition was literally spilling out of his pockets.)
It's not unreasonable for a police officer or any other person to fear that the stranger on the street, Black or white, could be armed to the teeth because that is what we have allowed our nation to become — a weapons bazaar.
But only a fool would argue that nothing more than the easy flow of deadly firearms afflicts us.
The truth is that we are a divided, distrustful nation, too determined to believe the worst of each other, too willing — even eager — to heed the angriest and most irrational voices among us.
Blacks fear whites. Whites fear Blacks. Scared bigots want to ban Muslims. Other bigots want to punish and demean fellow human beings on the basis of gender or sexual orientation.
Those oppressed, insulted or marginalized look for ways to lash back.
Rage stalks the land, searching for — and so often finding — a trigger to pull.
At times like these, people of good faith quote Martin Luther King Jr. They search through the King library to find admonitions about the importance of peace and the need for us to love one another.
One of the downsides of King's elevation to secular sainthood is that it prevents us from seeing him as the moral provocateur that he was.
However soaring his rhetoric might have been, King's strategy was unwaveringly earthbound. He sought, always, to spur the conscience, to force Americans of good heart into a moral awakening.
He drove us to stop thinking impersonally.
To stop saying and thinking, "Something must be done."
And to start thinking and saying, "I must do something."
I must do something.
We live in a time of horror. We watch our fellow citizens die on a regular basis. We snarl at each other as if there were no other way for us to talk.
We walk down our streets fearful of each other. We see fellow citizens as enemies.
This is who we have become, but it is not who we have to be.
This is our country. We can make it what we want it to be, what it should be. We can start by listening to each other, by lowering our own voices when others shout, by trying to understand, as best we can, the person who looks or worships or lives differently than we do.
We should do this.
We must do this.
The consequences for evading this moral responsibility are all around us.
So many souls lost.
So many scars upon the land.
[Editor's note: This guest editorial was written before news broke of the shooting in Dallas, Texas that took the lives of five police officers and wounded seven others.]
I'm white. Most of my ancestors are from England and Germany. I sunburn easily, I can't rap, and "mild" is the spiciest salsa I can handle.
Because I am white, I don't stand out in my (predominantly white) hometown of Kokomo, Indiana. I don't have to worry about speaking for all white people when I discuss race. When I am pulled over by the police for speeding, my main concern is how I'm going to pay for the ticket, not if I'm going to make it out of my car alive.
Growing up, I was constantly told that if I'm ever in trouble and my parents weren't around, a police officer would be willing to help me. In the case of an emergency, I was always instructed to call 911 first, then my parents. Policemen were the "good guys" who were there to protect me.
This is not the case for Americans who are not white, especially Black Americans. However, I'm not addressing non-white Americans right now. You already know about the constant state of fear and oppression non-white Americans deal with, because you live that reality every day. You're not the issue.
White people, including myself, are the problem. We perpetuate racism, spewing microaggressions and hurtful stereotypes. We deflect from the root issue by arguing that the victim had a gun; he was resisting arrest; the police officer was acting in self-defense. We ignore the fact that white criminals also have guns and resist arrest, but somehow manage to stay alive during their encounters with the police. We cry #AllLivesMatter and #BlueLivesMatter in response to the pleas of #BlackLivesMatter, a very basic statement that shouldn't ever be refuted. We dig up irrelevant facts about these Black victims and their families in order to label them "criminals" and "thugs," while we search for any available evidence in order to prove that our white criminals are just "lone wolves," "mentally unstable" or "quiet and reserved."
Our stout refusal to reflect on our inherent and rampant racism is literally killing people. Over 130 Black Americans (and counting) have been killed by police this year alone, and it's only July. Some were armed; some were not. Some had a criminal history; others did not. It doesn't really matter. A police officer should not act as the jury, judge and executioner, with the exception of extreme cases of self-defense. However, these are not extreme cases. People, Black people, are dying because they have a broken taillight, because they forgot to use their turn signal, because they were selling loose cigarettes.
Our police officers need to be educated on de-escalation tactics, crisis intervention, implicit bias and other topics that will help to stop the disturbing pattern of police violence in this country. Body cameras should be consistently implemented and regulated, and the recordings should be made readily available to the public. Officers need to be held accountable for their actions and data on police shootings should be collected and released.
As white people, we need to be better allies to Black people. We need to listen to their perspective, believe them when they vocalize injustices that have been railed against them and educate ourselves on relevant issues. We also need to elevate their activism — share their posts, use your networks to connect them to various resources and support them in their fight for justice. Additionally, it's important for white people to call out other white people on racism and prejudice. Work on changing the white spaces you currently operate in to make them more accepting and safe for Black people.
Recognize your privilege and leverage it to do good.
We can all do better. Talk to your state representatives about the issue of police brutality. Educate yourself about systematic racism. Look up if the police in your city are required to wear body cameras. Support and listen to your Black friends. Call out other white people's racism.
White people need to recognize our implicit responsibility for violence against Black people and fix this mess that we have created through centuries of racism and violence.
“While disappointed in today’s ruling, Gov. Pence remains steadfast in his support for the unborn, especially those with disabilities. The governor will continue to stand for the sanctity of human life in all stages, for the compassionate and safe treatment of women faced with an enormously difficult decision, and for the rights of citizens to determine appropriate medical safety standards and procedures through their elected representatives. While the judicial process continues, the governor remains focused on growing the already robust Hoosier economy and providing a world class education for all our children.”