¡Ya basta! Enough is enough! The heartbreak America is feeling today has become all too common. The deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, the young African American men who were shot by police officers in Louisiana and in Minnesota, and the five police officers who also lost their lives by sniper fire in the tragic aftermath of protests in Dallas, have become unbearable witnesses to an ugly, complicated racial imbroglio our country is in midst of, and of which we must find our way out.
But that way out cannot be paved by anger, resentment, revenge, hatred, or frustration. This is a trail that must be blazed by understanding, love, peace and forgiveness. And our leaders, in every community, from every movement, and on both sides of the aisle, must reflect this difficult dichotomy.
It is not an easy road to travel. The anger in communities of color is real. It must be acknowledged and dealt with in a real, solution-oriented manner.
The fact that young African-American and Latino men have a much greater chance of being shot by a police officer than their white counterparts is a statistic we should be ashamed of as a country.
And we need to fix it. It won’t happen overnight and it may get worse before it gets better, but this is what we must strive for.
It means we need better training for officers, more focus on deescalation and conflict resolution, more recruitment from the communities they serve, identification of best practices throughout police departments around the country and sharing of those practices. It means demilitarization of police departments. It means identifying repeat offenders among rank and file police officers and taking them off the beat if necessary.
Let’s face it – not everyone who is a police officer should be a police officer who is public-facing and policing our vast and diverse communities across the country.
It also means, however, understanding that the vast majority of police officers are good, brave, honorable people who put themselves in harm’s way to serve the public every day.
And many feel they have been under fire for some time, and literally were so in Dallas, where those who were targeted were also the ones who put themselves in the way of the sniper’s bullets to protect the peaceful protesters.
The families of young African-Americans, Latinos, the moms, the teenagers, teachers and mentors, the police officers, community leaders, faith leaders – each must understand they have a role to play and an important part of that role is to put themselves in the shoes of their perceived adversary, of the perceived offender, and take a look at the situation with fresh, new eyes.
It is crucial that we understand each other’s’ perspectives.
We will get nowhere if we don’t.
We also cannot divorce these tragedies from the persistent and frustrating but necessary debate on gun safety. The other statistic we need to be ashamed of is that every year there are 33,000 deaths due to guns in this country.
The seemingly infinite and easy availability of guns helps to perpetuate a culture of violence that cannot be dissociated from the tragedies we saw take place this week, and the countless tragedies and shootings that preceded them.
The fact that guns can way too easily get into the hands of criminals, even terrorists, is something we can fix. But it will take both sides coming together. It seems there has been some movement of late on this but there is still way too much intransigence on this issue.
Most Americans agree that expanded background checks are a good idea, as is keeping guns away from people on the no-fly list and from people who may have severe mental disabilities. This is not rocket science. This is the easy part of this complicated equation. Let’s deal with this, get it done and then get to the difficult endeavor of dealing with our race and criminal justice issues head on.
Our country’s strength and beauty is derived from our vast diversity. But that diversity should not be what divides us, it should be what unites us.
Our skin may be white, brown or black or any other array of color. But we all bleed red. And we all cry the same tears. My hope is that this past week, we all felt our hearts break collectively, that we all shed tears for Alton and Philando as well as the five officers who perished while doing their job.
My hope is that in our collective grief we can find a collective solution. Because enough is enough. ¡Ya basta!
Maria Cardona is a principal at the Dewey Square Group, a Democratic strategist and a CNN/CNN Español political commentator. Her Twitter handle is @MariaTCardona