#Dallas, #AltonSterling, #PhilandoCastile: No sides now

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Yesterday afternoon I drove two hours to Baton Rouge to attend a prayer vigil for Alton Sterling, the man killed by police the day before. Governor John Bel Edwards was in attendance and made some remarks in support of the victim, his family, law enforcement, and the community as a whole.

When I arrived home after the two hour drive back, the massacre in Dallas was just beginning. The world turned upside down…

Since last night, the motive of the Dallas killers, or at least one of them, have become clear. The only suspect killed by police told them during the prior negotiations that he “wanted to kill white people.” But he also told them that he was working alone, which almost certainly was not true. So we still don’t know everything.

The frustrating thing for me is that the stated target of “white people” in a police shooting protest necessarily becomes cops, because those are usually the only white people there in significant numbers. Even at the Baton Rouge prayer vigil, which was held in a large black church to be sure, there were almost no other white people in attendance who weren’t part of a media crew or security detail.

Why? I see white people just as outraged about police shootings on social media, but the protests on the ground are still almost exclusively black. This is not to call anyone out; we all have lives, and we all decide for ourselves how to support our causes. But in practice, in person, where the real danger is, only black people protest the deaths of black people by the police.

That has to change. Everyone should be outraged when a government agent violates a free citizen’s rights to life or liberty. Conservatives are only upset when bureaucratic agents do so. Liberals are only upset when law enforcement agents do. They’re all government agents, and they’re all supposed to serve us, not kill us.

And everyone should be just as upset when those government agents are themselves deprived of life or liberty without cause.

The same month I moved back to Louisiana from Texas last year, a state trooper was assassinated by a driver he had stopped to help with his truck in a ditch. He was to be buried at a cemetery just a couple miles from me, so my extended family all packed up in the truck and parked by the side of the road where the procession would pass. We saluted, waved, and acknowledged the thousands of law enforcement officers who had traveled from all over the country to lay their fallen brother to rest.

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And that’s the point. We’re all brothers. There can be no sides anymore. Not after the horror we’ve witnessed this week. We all have to support good cops and condemn bad ones. We all have to support black victims of violence and condemn perpetrators of it.

There can be no choice between law enforcement and the communities they serve. They have to work together toward the same goals of justice and peace. Anyone trying to blame one group, ideology, or political party for any of this is making the problem worse, not better.

The murderers in Dallas wanted a race war. They wanted division. Let’s not give it to them.


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