Aftermath of Dallas

As I sat on a plane headed to Dallas to visit my family for Easter, I thought about how I would be visiting the area I had heard so much about last summer when a sniper shot and killed five Dallas police officers during a demonstration against police brutality. An article in The New York Times states the sniper changed the protest “from a peaceful march focused on violence committed by officers into a scene of chaos and bloodshed aimed against [police officers]”[1]. Indeed, the Black Lives Matter movement received severe backlash after the violence in Dallas, but the criticism was not justified.

In class, we discussed how a small number of bad police officers ruin the reputation of the entire police force. This is also the case with demonstrations and movements, especially Black Lives Matter – a few violent protestors can affect the perception of an entire movement. Although the Dallas gunman had no affiliation with Black Lives Matter, his actions tainted the public’s image of the movement. Many people began describing members of Black Lives Matter as “radical” or “violent” even though the gunman was quoted saying “he was upset about Black Lives Matter.”[2] Additionally, he admitted that “he wanted to kill white people,” a goal that further distinguishes the sniper from the movement.[3] However, the public did not recognize this distinction. Immediately after the incident, a paradigm switch occurred: police officers were seen as the victim while members of Black Lives Matter were seen as the culprit. The executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations went as far as to claim a “war on cops” and to blame the Obama administration for it.[4] However, we cannot justifiably dismiss the entire Black Lives Matter movement due to one unaffiliated sniper’s aggression towards police officers. Unlike the perception of the police force, which was hindered by the brutality of actual police officers, the reputation of the Black Lives Matter movement was hindered by a man who was not even a member of the movement.

This contrast becomes more evident when we compare President Obama’s response to the Dallas incident with his response to the shooting of Philando Castile in Minnesota – the event that originally sparked the demonstration in Dallas. After the murder of Castile, the president made a statement:

“When incidents like this occur, there’s a big chunk of our citizenry that feels as if, because of the color of their skin, they are not being treated the same, and that hurts, and that should trouble all of us … This is not just a black issue, not just a Hispanic issue. This is an American issue that we all should care about.”[5]

 

After the murder of the five Dallas police officers, he made another statement:

“We will learn more, undoubtedly, about their twisted motivations, but let’s be clear: there are no possible justifications for these attacks or any violence towards law enforcement”[6]

 

In the first statement, President Obama expresses more neutrality. He says that a portion of our society “feels” a certain way but does not directly validate such feelings. In the second statement, he is much more direct and absolute; there is no room for misinterpretation in his statement. Rather, President Obama seems to wholeheartedly support the police officers. It appears as if he is taking their side. The president immediately spoke out to defend the lives of the murdered police officers, but in class we have discussed repeatedly how the president neglected or hesitated to speak out to defend the victims of police brutality. The Black Lives Matter movement has admirable intentions, but unfortunately people are slow to support it yet quick to criticize it.

 

[1] Fernandez, Manny, Pérez-Peña, Richard, and Bromwich, Jonah E. “Five Dallas Officers Were Killed as Payback, Police Chief Says.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 2017. Web. 15 Apr. 2017.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Furber, Matt and Pérez-Peña, Richard. “After Philando Castile’s Killing, Obama Calls Police Shootings ‘an American Issue.’” The New York Times. The New York Times, 2017. Web. 15 Apr. 2017.

[6] Fernandez, Pérez-Peña, and Bromwich. “Five Dallas Police Officers Were Killed as Payback, Police Chief Says.”

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