On St. Patrick’s Day of 2015, police brutality became a personal issue for the University of Virginia community. UVa’s own Martese Johnson, a member of the Honor Committee, experienced harsh abuses by agents from the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control. Martese sustained preventable injuries and the Black Lives Matter Movement spread with passion throughout Charlottesville.
Police brutality has developed into an epidemic. There have been riots in Ferguson and Baltimore in response. More recently, the tragic deaths of Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Louisiana reminded America of this infectious problem.
On July 7th at a Black Lives Matter Protest in Dallas, TX, an event created to express fervent disapproval towards the murders of Castile and Sterling at the hands of officers, another issue developed. What began as a peaceful demonstration suddenly transformed into a scene of gunshots and chaos. Twelve police officers and two civilians were shot. Five of the officers died.
The suspect has been identified as Micah X. Johnson a 25 year-old of Mesquite, TX. According to Dallas Police Chief David Brown, the suspect told the Dallas police officers during negotiations that he “wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.”
It seems that more and more often today, society appears to be split between pro-police/All Lives Matter and anti-police/Black Lives Matter supporters. As President Obama suggested in his July 8th remarks regarding the Dallas police shooting, this divide should not exist.
“For now, let me just say that even as yesterday I spoke about our need to be concerned, as all Americans, about racial disparities in our criminal justice system. I also said yesterday that our police have an extraordinarily difficult job and the vast majority of them do their job in outstanding fashion. I also indicated the degree to which we need to be supportive of those officers who do their job each and every day, protecting us and protecting our communities.”
Americans must recognize racial biases in the criminal justice system, prejudiced portrayals by the media, and other similar practices. Simultaneously, it is crucial to recognize another aspect causing this continuous violence as well: division.
As students at one of the best universities in the United States, we must lead our generation by example in fostering a society that is not split by pro-Blue Lives and pro-Black Lives. This divide should not and cannot be mutually exclusive any longer.
As Attorney General Loretta Lynch issued in her July 8th statement: “The answer is never violence.” The University of Virginia has responded to police brutality and has been an active participant in the Black Lives Matter Movement. As Lynch urges: “We must continue working to build trust between communities and law enforcement,” “reject the easy impulses of bitterness and rancor and embrace the difficult work of finding a path forward together.”