Hashtags have been flying all over the place in America over the past week or so. Hashtags of names, cries of anger and demands for justice. Even here across the safety of the Atlantic, you can sense the tension that lies in the air, and the anticipation of what will come next.
As protests rage across the country, law enforcement agents stand on high alert afraid for their lives and the lives of their colleagues. Frustrated at the lack of justice, peaceful protests remain on the verge of combustion, as fear and anger bubble under the surface.
People are not born with hate in their hearts, these are learned traits, and unless you suffer at the hands of discrimination, you will never fully understand. Unless your Father’s life and achievements are reduced to a viral video of his last breath, or your Son’s name circles the earth as a hashtag he will never see, you will never get it.
We hear people say “I’m not a racist, some of my friends are black.” That may be true, but consider how that friend had to earn your trust before you allowed that to happen. Did they have to break down an invisible barrier before you would welcome them into your home? Should that friend have passed you on the street on a dark night, would you have put a hand on your handbag and crossed the road?
What’s especially destructive is the fact that people feel that they should take sides. They cannot be pro-police and pro-blacks, it must be one or the other. The fact is that each of these incidents join both sides together for one reason. They are all driven by fear. A policeman lives on high alert whilst doing his or her job, running on adrenaline while they face death every day. As a result of this, when a law enforcement agent sees someone make a sudden move, their immediate instinct is to protect themselves, they think of their partners and children, and their reaction is one of fear.
Whilst in Ireland view our Gardai as our protectors, black people also live in a constant state of fear, they worry that their next encounter with the police will bring their death, or the death of a loved one. They unfortunately have to teach their children that, for their own safety, they must drop to their knees if they see the police approach them.
We cannot judge either side, but we can recognise that all these deaths are needless, and none will result in anything but further suspicion, anger and ultimately more deaths.