It’s hard to pinpoint where it started. Maybe it was when a kid coming home with Skittles and an Arizona Ice Tea turned into a deadly altercation with a neighborhood watchman. Possibly it was when a taxi driver was beaten by four officers and asked, “Can’t we all just get along”. Or, was it when two Mississippians were acquitted of brutally murdering a teenage boy for “flirting” with a White woman and his open casket funeral spurred a civil rights movement?
The historical record of the contentious relationship between the American justice system and African American men is well documented in its breadth and complexity, but the emotional response it evokes today has received less thoughtful exploration despite the emotional intensity that constantly has been on display during news coverage these past two years.
The strongest emotional responses from both the African American community and the police community have often highlighted the violence of the “other side,” and while valid, have often missed the mark on one of the most important ingredients for implementing policies that sustain peace: empathy.