Another tragedy overarches the killings of police and black men last week: America’s ongoing struggle to reconcile itself along lines of race. We are still fighting over what being black means — and should mean — in a nation that ostensibly holds equality as a foundational belief.
“We have a mandate: to avenge the sufferings of our ancestors, earn the respect of future generations and be transformed in the service of the work. That is what we are in the streets for. We’re going to take as much time as we need.”
As these words are written, I am on a cruise ship pulling into the harbor of the Greek island of Crete. All around me, the morning sparkles. The water is placid, the sky is clear and pale blue, our ship is embraced by gently sloping hills dotted with houses and shops. And I just turned on the television.
The deaths of five Dallas police officers and Alton Sterling and Philando Castile have exposed the fissures in American society, bringing together some of the toughest issues the nation faces into one week: mistrust of police within the Black community, gun violence, and hyper-partisanship.
Political leaders responded to last night’s shootings on TV and social media with an outpouring of compassion and support.
Larry Wilmore wrote his monologue for last night’s The Nightly Show after the police killing of Alton Sterling, who was shot multiple times in the chest while pinned to the ground by two police officers. But he wrote it before the police killing of Philando Castille.
Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD officer who killed Eric Garner with a chokehold in 2014, was acquitted by a jury. Garner was unarmed, and Pantaleo had faced two civil suits previous to the incident related to abuses of power.
Posts on Twitter showed the demonstrators gathered outside the Triple S Food Mart convenience store in Baton Rouge, where, police said in a statement, the man, Alton Sterling, 37, was shot by officers soon after midnight.