The perfect storm formed earlier last week. African-American Alton Sterling was shot and killed in Louisiana by police while he was pinned to the ground. Less than 48 hours later a Minnesota police officer shot and killed another African American man, named Philando Castile, during a routine traffic stop as the man reached for his driver’s license and registration. The next night, twelve Dallas police officers were shot and five (Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarriopa, Michael Krol, Michael Smith and Lorne Ahrens) were killed by an African American sniper in retaliation during a Black Lives Matter protest march in Texas.
According to ABC News:
The Rev. Jeff Hood, one of the organizers of the protest said the goal of the rally was to create “a space where anger could be let out. We were interested in creating a space where people could grieve. We were interested in creating a space where people could network to face head-on the problem of police brutality in our country.”
He added, “We left that rally in a nonviolent fashion. After leaving the rally, I heard ‘Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop’ in succession. Immediately when I heard the shots, I looked up, and I saw what I believe were two police officers that went down.”
“The sergeant ran towards the shooting. I ran the opposite direction … was screaming, ‘Run, run! Active shooter, active shooter! Run, run!’ And I was trying to get folks out as fast as I could … During that moment, I lost track of my wife. I didn’t find her again for three and a half hours,” Hood said.
“I spent those three hours talking to people asking the question, ‘Why, why? Why is this happening?’ The only answer I know now and the only answer I knew then was turn to love. We’ve got to turn to love. We got to stop shooting,” he said. “This is a devastating time for the city of Dallas. It’s a devastating time for us as activists and organizers.”
Let’s be clear, Dallas is the focal point for the national and international media outlets right now, but retaliation elsewhere in response for the killings of Black citizens is occurring in other places. Police have also been ambushed in Georgia, Missouri and Tennessee.
Terror and confusion rule the day (and night). What is happening? Are we witnessing the beginning of a race war, or the defining moment when Americans begin to build reconciliation and seek understanding? Will we realign ourselves to embrace diversity and fill our hearts with tolerance, or will we draw deeper lines that divide communities, even families?
While elected officials and other wannabe politicians may rush to judgment to feed the hungry media beast, I believe it is important for the rest of us to step back, take several deep breaths and reflect on how are we feeling? When we share our deep, personal emotions in response to the historical events of our time, our eyewitness stories become more powerful than any chapter in a history textbook or Wikipedia entry can ever hope to be. We are on the front row as history unfolds.
But even more importantly, by writing what we think and how we feel, we can begin to heal from the trauma all of us are experiencing this summer. As Dr. James Pennebaker at the University of Texas has discovered, writing about life’s stresses is profoundly therapeutic. Writing in our personal journals about the shame, the blame and the pain we are feeling today will actually save us from sinking further into the abyss of craziness.
I urge you to get out your journal and write—or draw—what you are feeling about the grip that violence has on our community. Explore the details of what you’re feeling instead of being terrorized by apparitions flickering from the dark recesses of your mind.
Write fast—against the clock—in ten minutes—or less. You don’t ever have to show it to anyone else. This is private writing, for your eyes only.
However, you may find that when you re-read it in a few months or a year, that you’ll be able to understand what you are going through and be able to bring an individual perspective to things that would not be possible otherwise.
I often say, writing is thinking on paper. What do you think, really think, and how do you feel about the chaos swirling around us? Tell yourself the truth. Your truth. And why.