Reflect, Revive, Rise Up

On the anniversary of the July 7, 2016 Dallas police ambush and the shooting death of teen Jordan Edwards, there’s no time for business as usual

By Hillary E. Evans

After shots rang out on the fateful evening of April 29 that resulted in 15-year-old Jordan Edwards tragic death in a Dallas suburb, I could not help but recall the July 7, 2016 shootings in downtown Dallas. That night a year ago what started as a peaceful protest of the very kind of behavior that took Jordan’s life quickly turned into a bloody mayhem. Dallas and the nation watched in horror as the violent actions of one human being took the lives of police officers and civilians who got caught in the crossfire.

I again felt an enormity of grief, frustration and confusion upon hearing the news that Jordan had been shot and killed by now-former Balch Springs Police Officer Roy Oliver. This feeling has become all too commonplace with an epidemic of police shootings taking place across the country of unarmed black men and women. I struggle in wondering when it will end and what we can do to change a culture where some law enforcement officers and citizens have accepted these killings as justice.

Less than one-tenth of fatal police shootings result in a conviction, according to Wesley Lowery at The Washington Post. What does it say about the juries who are reaching verdicts that acquit these officers? Is the legal standard provided in jury instructions, requiring a “reasonable” fear by the officer before using lethal force, flawed? Does it matter if the officer’s fear is laced with bias because of one’s skin color? Have we as a culture accepted that it is lawful for police officers to kill, even when their actions exceed the force that is reasonable? Clearly, the recent public outrage over the acquittals of Philando Castile and Sylville Smith would suggest otherwise, but somehow there is a disconnect in the jury room and within the legal system.

Somehow there is a disconnect in the jury room and within the legal system.

Where do we go from here? I reread President Barack Obama’s remarks at the memorial for the police officers and civilians killed last July. He described how the officers who lost their lives had answered a call to protect and serve the moment they decided to become a police officer and don the uniform. He also asked that Americans not despair and rest on the division but rather find ways to bring us together as a nation and as human beings.

In the wake of tragedy, we are tested by whether or not we live up to the democracy that is the foundation of our country. The Dallas community on many occasions has come together to have difficult conversations on race and economics that have segregated our city. These conversations continue to be important as well as the work that it will take to change minds and hearts.

In the wake of tragedy, we are tested by whether or not we live up to the democracy that is the foundation of our country.

May we resist leaders who promote bigotry and work to dismantle unfair systems and policies that result in injustice. May we rise up as people and see that remaining silent and indifferent will only lead to our demise. From the innocent lives lost — like the life of Jordan and the police officers and civilians also killed — we must revive the life of human consciousness and demand that we can and must change. It is not business as usual.

Hillary E. Evans, a Dallas Public Voices Fellow, is director of collective impact projects at Social Venture Partners Dallas.