Less than a month ago, in the aftermath of the nightclub shooting in Orlando, I was writing on homophobia, Islamophobia, and our nation's appalling lack of gun laws. Today, the message is every bit as grim with the news of the killings of two black men by police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota and now the killing of five police officers in Dallas. It is hard not to despair in the face of such institutional violence and racism.
I watched the video of the moments following Philando Castille's shooting. I immediately wished I hadn't. It was gruesome and shocking. I could not shake the image of a police officer pointing a gun into the passenger side window as a man lay dying, his girlfriend and daughter witnesses and hostages to this horrific act.
This morning I clicked on a New York Times op ed, "What White America Fails to See" by Eric Dyson, and was immediately confronted with the same gruesome images (this time as photographs) at the top of the page. I averted my eyes and scrolled down to the text. But Dyson wouldn't let me look away. His words are hard and cutting and difficult to look at. He's not offering answers or working to unite a divisive climate. The piece is raw and uncompromising. "You cannot know how we secretly curse the cowardice of whites who know what I write is true, but dare not say it. Neither will your smug insistence that you are different — not like that ocean of unenlightened whites — satisfy us any longer. It makes the killings worse to know that your disapproval of them has spared your reputations and not our lives." As difficult as it is to read I'm glad Dyson had the courage to write it, breaking away from what he says is a tendency among black America to "keep our rage inside." I do understand the deep desire to be seen and heard, and most especially, to have a space to express one's anger. So I recommend reading the piece (and the comments which accompany it) as a way to do just that: to hear and see and create space for the anger and sorrows of black America.
It's the least I can do.
p.s.- For a different, but equally important viewpoint ("Believing Without Seeing"), read this article.