This has been a pretty devastating week for the United States of America.
First, a video surfaced of 37-year-old Alton Sterling – a black man – being shot dead by police as he was pinned to the ground and unable to move.
Just a day later, another African-American male – Philando Castile – was shot multiple times by a police officer, even after he informed the officer that he was carrying a firearm and reaching for his wallet.
Diamond Reynolds, his girlfriend, filmed the aftermath as her 4-year-old daughter looked on from the back seat of the car.
Then, on Thursday night as peaceful protestors gathered in Dallas to mourn those tragic losses, a lone shooter killed five police officers and wounded seven others.
One heartbreak after another.
As if this week hasn’t done enough to damage our collective psyche, there are those using this opportunity to further deepen the divisions in our country.
Before the active shooting situation even ended, former Congressman Joe Walsh issued a threat on Twitter saying, “This is now war. Watch out Obama. Real America is coming after you.”
Walsh has since taken down his shameful post, but there are plenty of divisive ones remaining, like this:
10 Cops shot.
You did this Obama.
You did this liberals.
You did this #BLM.
Time to defend our Cops. Wake up. https://t.co/Zoc3x2xlMk
— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) July 8, 2016
Rudy Giuliani also joined Walsh in trying to pull us apart, saying on MSNBC today that police officers are targeted “because of groups like Black Lives Matter that make it seem like all police are against blacks.”
Despite the former New York mayor’s rhetoric, leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement quickly condemned Thursday’s shooting, saying the group “advocates dignity, justice and freedom. Not murder.”
On the other side of the coin, there were some who took to Twitter to say they hoped the wounded police officers wouldn’t survive their injuries. One despicable tweet said that “it’s nice to see someone taking some action” against law enforcement officers.
Others decided that this was a good chance to attack whoever their political opponents may be, whether it’s President Obama, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.
All of them are wrong, and we should do ourselves a favor and stop listening to them.
Each tragedy that took place this week – from the senseless killings by police to the horrific attack on police – should bring us together, not only in anger and sadness but in common cause.
We should be asking ourselves how we can unite and work to end all kinds of violence and inequality.
We should be listening to and emulating those who bring us together, not using this moment to worsen tensions that were bad enough before this week began.
Last night in Dallas, when protestors and law enforcement gathered for a peaceful exercise of American democracy, a lone gunman did his best to take that away. In those chaotic moments, both the police officers and organizers joined together to ensure the safety of as many people as possible.
Law enforcement protected protestors, and protestors helped law enforcement track down the deranged killer.
America should respond in the same way – by joining together and recognizing that one abhorrent and senseless act of violence, whether it’s by or against the police, whether it’s committed by a white man or black man, does not fully represent either group of people.
You can be upset and outraged that Alton Sterling and Philando Castile had their lives taken from them and still think highly of the vast majority of law enforcement officials who serve their communities with honor.
You can also be sickened by the events of last night and still recognize that protestors in Dallas and elsewhere have every right to be speaking out against real inequalities that exist in our criminal justice system.
Those who say we must pick a side are wrong, and we should stop giving them a platform on which to spew their divisive rhetoric.
As Robert Kennedy said on the day Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968, “What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.”
“The vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings that abide in our land,” he said.
As we mourn those we’ve lost this week and grapple with how to move forward as a country, we’d be smart to remember Kennedy’s words.
Sean Colarossi currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was an organizing fellow for both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns. He also worked with Planned Parenthood as an Affordable Care Act Outreach Organizer in 2014, helping northeast Ohio residents obtain health insurance coverage.