To The Editor:
My heart is heavy at this moment in our nation’s history. I am sad, frustrated, and appalled by recent events: two more black men killed at the hands of police officers, video that illustrates the climate of fear that subsumes many of our communities, and the ambush – amid a rally and march honoring the slain men – that left five police officers dead in Dallas.
Our organization works with thousands of youngsters and young adults each year, and many are black and Hispanic, low-income, and living in neighborhoods where they worry about their livelihood. We work closely with our local police precincts, so our program participants can shore up trust and not repeat mistakes they may have made or witnessed.
Yet, when incidents like the fatal shootings in Minnesota and Louisiana occur, they feel powerless, that those expected to protect and serve instead provoke and destroy. Far too many times, accounts of unfair and violent treatment elicit doubt, the suggestion that victims somehow were at fault by engaging in questionable behavior.
As the full accounts of the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling come to light, I expect more outrage, more calls for justice, and, unfortunately, much pontificating. I encourage those who look to the Mission Society for guidance to embrace their emotions yet channel them in positive ways.
My heart goes out to the Castile and Sterling families but also to those of the slain officers in Dallas.
While peaceful protests serve a greater good, I also encourage those in our community to become more civically engaged.
Just a few days ago, when my husband and I voted in the 13th Congressional District election, I was troubled that my voting station was largely empty. I reflect on this now because that moment – and this fall’s presidential elections – are times when we have opportunities to advance change.
Those who are elected to serve us can shape the rules that govern our safety and security. Those we elect to office, whether on a local, city, state or national level, need to understand – and embrace our pain – and give us promise for a better future.
Elsie McCabe Thompson,
New York City Mission Society