After I agreed to share my thoughts regarding the tragedies of last week in Baton Rouge, Minnesota and Dallas, it seems I’ve been dragging my feet putting my thoughts into shareable words. Truthfully, I’m still gathering my thoughts and examining my feelings over everything. You see, I am a biracial woman who identifies more and more with the Black community. I was one of the “highlighted” students at Linfield; I was one of twenty-four African and African-American students on a campus of 1600. I know what it’s like to be watched because the color of my skin. I’ve been stopped for not being the right shade in a neighborhood. I’ve been followed inside stores. I worry about my friends, family, and potential children becoming a hashtag.
I am also a 911 dispatcher. I know the majority of the women and men that serve as police officers do so with integrity and pride. Most officers entered their profession wanting to make a difference. They are the ones that run towards danger when the average person runs the other way. Luckily I have not had an officer injured while I worked the radio, but I was working the night a neighboring agency lost an officer. I remember the silence on their radio frequency, the empty and helpless feeling while we waited for updates on the situation. My heart aches for the Dallas officers, their families, and their colleagues. I worry for the safety of my friends and coworkers.
The videos of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are heartbreaking. However, I can’t judge or comment on those videos. I don’t work for those departments. We’re only seeing a portion of complex situations. It’s easy to second guess the actions of the officers and/or the victims in situations you have never experienced. It’s also easy to dismiss protesters with overly simplified statements such as “If she/he followed the police instructions, they’d still be alive.” Life is not that simple. People have followed rules and they’re still dead.
I am a supporter of Black Lives Matter. I am also a supporter of law enforcement. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. Our system needs to be reviewed. It needs to be updated. We need to acknowledge our history and discuss how it affects our current society. We need open dialogue to move forward. We need unbiased news reporting.
Honestly, I’m tired. I’m tired of reading similar headlines year after year. I’m tired of holding my head up, hoping for change.
Dena Morales graduated from Linfield in 1999 with a degree in Anthropology. She lives in Seatac, WA and has served the Port of Seattle for 12 years.