Personal Commentary by Nat Chioke Williams of the Hill-Snowdon Foundation on the tragic loss of life and hope in the aftermath of the shooting of Alton Sterling, Philando Castille and five police officers in Dallas.
As I woke to the news this morning, I was compelled to write the following.
In the Absence of Hope…
Something changed in the souls of Black folks on July 7th, 2016. One hundred and twenty three Black people were shot and killed by police so far in 2016, but the back to back murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille took something else from us. It was palpable, pervasive but hard to name. There were such profound feelings of loss – the loss of grief for Alton Sterling, Philando Castille, their families and all the other Black people gone at the hands of police; the loss of any modicum of safety that following “the rules” is supposed to provide in this society; the loss of vision of the way forward and what to do next; the loss of belief in the power and impact of our organizing and resistance; the loss of hope that things will ever change. And at our collective nadir, our lowest point, as hope is sucked out of our spirits, it is replaced with a disconsolate despair and desperation.
Life is the single most precious gift that we all have. And when any life is taken intentionally, whether it be by police or civilians, it shreds the fabric of our humanity. I mourn the loss of the lives of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille, just as I mourn the loss of the five police officers that were gunned down in Dallas. The taking of an innocent life is always a despicable act, regardless of the role or status of those who are killed. And our humanity demands that we honor and grieve for the loss of all life in equal measure. And our humanity demands that we as a society and the institutions that we allow to regulate our lives must focus on restoring the concrete hope that only comes from a systemic and society wide commitment to protecting and upholding the right of all lives to thrive – especially the lives of us who suffer the most from social oppression. Individually and collectively, we as Black people have to fight through our trauma, loss and despair to hold onto our hope for a better tomorrow. We have to do this for our own sake, and we can with the knowledge that our ancestors endured their hardships so that we could have the hope that life brings. However, this society, for its own sake, has to honor our hope with concrete, real, lasting, ubiquitous transformative social change in the lived conditions of the Black community. That this change needs to happen is no longer the question. The only questions that remain are will this country commit to the changes that are necessary so that Black people can thrive and live in peace and, what will happen if the country does not?