The events of the last week have been horrifying, infuriating, and deeply saddening.
Two black men, Alton Sterling, and Philando Castile, have been shot dead by police officers. Men who were not resisting arrest, not posing a threat, and who should not be dead. Their final, awful moments, filmed on mobile phones, have been seen millions times. Then, during what was otherwise a peaceful protest in Dallas, five white police officers were shot and killed by a gunman who appears to have been motivated by his frustrations with how black people are treated by the police. My heart goes out to all of these victims and their families.
Where do we go from here? I don’t see any easy answers. Race is an incredibly divisive issue, and the United States is a country where many people from racial minority groups are deeply mistrustful of the police. I cannot fully appreciate the danger and difficulty of being a police officer, and yet I can\’t understand why police in other nations are able to serve and protect with far less killing. In America, black people are shot by police officers at twice the rate of white people, while a white man who shot and killed nine black people during a church service in 2015 was captured and detained unharmed. In 2015, 102 unarmed black people were killed by police officers, of which, only 2 cases was the officer charged with a crime.
Can you even fathom how awful this fact must be to the families of those killed? How deep the wounds are when the people who are assigned to protect life instead take it away. I don\’t know if I can, but I am trying.
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As an Asian American man, what is my role in this? Am I the oppressor because I enjoy many of the same privileges that whites do? Am I the oppressed because Asian Americans also experience hate crimes and racial discrimination? I don’t know.
All I know is that I can\’t stay silent. And though this blog focuses mostly on tech and business, this topic is too important not to say something. So I am.
Black lives matter. And we all need to do more to ensure that everyone in this country receives fair and equal treatment under the law and law enforcement officers.
When I was in Alabama for the PRCA Game Changers conference, I met Chuck Reece, another speaker at the event, who runs an online magazine called the Bitter Southerner. He got up in front of an almost entirely white audience of PR professionals and said that they had to acknowledge that the backdrop and context for any story or event that takes place in the South is the specter of slavery and a long history of violence and mistreatment toward people of color. I thought that was a brave and important thing to say and an idea that bears repeating now.
Consider the backdrop of everything that\’s been happening up until now. Trayvon Martin. Michael Brown. Eric Garner. Sandra Bland. The Charleston Nine. The Orlando shooting. This is not just a race issue. This is not just a police issue. This is not just a gun control issue. This is a “how do we foster a peaceful and pluralistic society after so much painful history” issue and none of us are exempt from playing a part on its solution.
One particular resource I’ll point to is an incredible letter to Asian-American families about the Black Lives Matter movement that’s been translated into a dozen languages by hundreds of people over the last few days (hat tip Chevon Drew). The Asian American community has often failed to be an ally for other people of color and there’s a dark streak of anti-black sentiment sometimes crops up within our group. I’m glad to see this crowdsourced effort to address some of those things.
I don’t know exactly what we should do next, but this seems like a good start:
Support the families of those who were killed. Don’t assume you understand someone’s experiences. Listen. Hard. Be willing to change your mind and revise your stance on things. Be mindful of the many advantages you may enjoy over those less fortunate (but not less deserving) than you. Don\’t look away from the hurt and keep your heart open.
Photo credit: Tony Webster