“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars… Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Like many of you, I cried this morning. I cried for the five officers in Dallas who were shot in cold-blooded fashion during a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest. I cried, again, for the men in Baton Rouge and St. Paul, Minn., who were fatally shot by officers only days ago.
I cried when I listened to the accounts of witnesses to the hell in Dallas. Their shock, fear, and utter despair made me flinch.
I cried when I watched the graphic footage of Philando Castile and heard his final moans as his girlfriend told the world of the unfolding tragedy.
I cried when I saw the equally graphic footage of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and heard the shots that ended his life.
I cried when I heard the Dallas police chief tell us that the Dallas sniper said he wanted to kill white police officers in retribution for the fatal shootings of black men.
I cried when I watched President Obama – for the second time in less than 24 hours – address violence in this nation. It was not lost on me that when he spoke, he was 5,000 miles away attending his last summit of NATO, an organization that exists in part to safeguard the freedom and security of member nations.
I cried when I contemplated what we, as educators, will tell our children this time.
I cried when I thought about the world they are seeing, the pain they are witnessing, the sadness they are feeling.
I cried when I considered the psychic damage to each and every one of us. On the one hand, we are becoming inured to the constant shootings, the ever-present dangers, the lockdowns, the standoffs. On the other hand, each time another act of violence interrupts a brief interlude of “peace,” our souls cry out. Our hearts break again.
Like you, I am so very weary of crying. I am so very weary of anger. I am so frustrated by the easy access to high-powered weapons that paved the way for Sandy Hook, Orlando, and Dallas.
We have, unfortunately, developed a catalogue of resources for how we speak to students about the shootings, ambushes, snipers, random violence, targeted attacks. But there are not enough resources in the world to make sense of the senseless.
One man in Dallas put it this way: “I’m tired of waking up every morning and seeing the same thing over, and over, and over again.”
As people who work in our nation’s public schools, NEA members are public service professionals, and we have a special bond with the men and women who devote their lives to securing the safety of all of us. We mourn with the city of Dallas and with the families of the slain police officers. In communities across the country, we work hand in hand with officers. Like them, we want to ensure that kids have the opportunities for a good life that they deserve.
At the same time, we recognize that there are some uses of deadly force by police officers against black and Latino people that call into question their training, and sometimes, even their assumptions about race and communities of color.
Those two perspectives – our solidarity with police officers and our concern about institutional racism and the way minorities are sometimes viewed and treated by police – are not in conflict with each other. What we all recognize is that there is a need by all of us for more comprehension and compassion. We cannot demonize those we don’t understand. We cannot hate entire groups of people because of the actions of some.
Because we are educators, I believe we have a special role to play in creating understanding. In building community. In the coming weeks, I challenge all of us to think about what we can do and how we can be beacons in this nation that all of us love so dearly. We owe it to our students. They are watching us.