Just two months ago, I wrote a blog in response to a string of shootings across the country. I mentioned how these shootings are hitting closer to home.
But none have hit as close as Tuesday’s shooting in Charlotte, just half an hour away from me. It was a mile from UNC Charlotte where I went to college, half a mile from my old apartment and one neighborhood over from where I used to babysit. Close.
It’s the latest story adding fuel to the fire of deep-seated emotion, stemming from a history of racially charged clashes between police and civilians. Anger, grief, distress, a tiring fight for justice all come to a head, exploding in chaos.
As I browsed through pictures of protesters and police officers who flooded a main road shortly after the afternoon shooting, I couldn’t help but think about all the times I drove down that exact road on my way home. Like thousands of others, I’ve also driven tons of times on the same section of I-85 that was filled with adrenaline as protesters and police with shielded helmets held up traffic for miles. I still have friends who live in that area.
After more protests last night, I thought about the many times I’ve walked the same sidewalks in uptown overflowing with shouts, busted windows and tear gas, and the time my dad stayed in the same hotel caught in the thick of violence. The protests had been so peaceful hours earlier.
The danger of watching events like this unravel on TV, the radio or online is the distance. All these shootings may start to blend together and seem to follow the same script: man dies, people outraged, tension between police and civilians.
What makes the Keith Scott shooting different for me is the proximity. For months, I’ve watched similar scenes unfold in other cities, but now it’s in my own community. I knew we weren’t immune, but it’s still surreal.
It’s strange seeing pictures of Charlotte-Mecklenburg police cars with smashed bumpers and broken windshields as protesters stand on top of them. It’s crazy seeing video of our officers in riot gear, holding back what could be their own neighbors in a time of emotional turmoil.
It’s not that I didn’t care about the number of shootings before this one, or that I didn’t comb the news for more details when this happened before, but now I care even more. Now it’s not fading into the background as quickly as it would if it happened elsewhere. Now I feel more sad about a community being divided. Now I feel more aware and more responsible for what’s going on around me.
So what happens when something you’ve experienced only from a distance actually hits home?
Personally, I wonder what I can do to help alleviate the tension, to understand the two (or three or four) sides better, to be part of a solution. But what exactly does that look like?
For me, it’s trying to show compassion when discussing anything regarding race or policing. It’s listening to people who see things differently, and letting it sink in. It’s fighting the temptation to draw my own conclusions to a story five minutes after it happens. It’s owning the issue and realizing that even if I’m not directly involved, things like this still affect me and where I live.
Most of all, it’s remembering we’re all God-designed with inherent worth and loved beyond measure, no matter what our race, occupation or background may be. That alone is a good place to start, and a good thing to share with others who may not know it.
What about you? How can you help prevent this kind of tension where you live? What can you do to unify your community now—before another victim’s face, another officer’s name, becomes the new story?