More shootings of black men at the hands of police, this time in Baton Rouge and Minneapolis. Words rarely fail me, but they have failed me today. There is so much to be said, but every time I try to speak about it, to draw a coherent thought from the jumbled welter of my feelings, all that emerges is a plea: “Enough. Stop it. No more.”
But I am not entitled to my silence. None of us are, not now, not in the face of this.
In my view of the field and institution I am privileged to serve, we have a special responsibility in our work and in our roles sometimes simply to bear witness. In our society there are so many marginalized, forgotten, neglected people, and we seem to be minting more every day. There are so many people our society chooses to oppress or aggress or simply ignore, and we make it tolerable for ourselves by turning those whose pain we’d prefer not to see into someone “other,” something “other.”
Here in Pittsburgh efforts by our police chief to adopt community policing techniques and train officers in implicit bias have been ridiculed by some as “hug a thug.” Think about the words. Please, just think about the words. In one terse little phrase they criminalize anyone the police encounter and make them less than the rest of us, less than human, an enemy deserving of whatever happens to them.
There is a cancer eating our country from the inside out, and it is precisely this: this dehumanizing of the “other,” this violent hatred for what is different. This willful decision not to care. It rips at our hearts and turns us against each other. It makes the unthinkable normal, the unacceptable routine.
To quiet our conscience, we make monsters of people who are in their souls no different than us, and the price we pay is to become the monsters we most fear.
Why do we have to say #BlackLivesMatter? Seriously? Because apparently we have forgotten that in this country, if we ever knew it. Because apparently it needs to be said out loud, loudly and forcefully enough for the shootings to stop and the otherizing to stop.
That’s all I have to offer right now, in the midst of stupefying sadness—to bear witness to the pain and anguish of those who must live in fear because of the color of their skin. Or, on other days marked by other videos and other tragedies, because of who they love, or the God they worship, or the money they don’t have.
This is what I have to give: To say on behalf of our institution, yes, yes, we see it. We see it and it is not ok. To say, we will do our part. To protest, along with you, “Enough, stop it, no more.”