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Violence is not the answer we seek

We need to push for change across the social, political and economic landscape

“And then we tell the police, ‘You’re a social worker, you’re the parent, you’re the teacher, you’re the drug counselor.’ We tell them to keep those neighborhoods in check at all costs, and do so without causing any political blowback or inconvenience. Don’t make a mistake that might disturb our own peace of mind. And then we feign surprise when, periodically, the tensions boil over.” — President Barack Obama

America has found itself scarred and left black and blue from recent events. The past week in particular has been an emotional roller coaster for the entire country. A period marked by a set of events that have taken us all on a ride through ups and downs that are both sad and unnecessary.

In one city, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, we have gone from the death of Alton Sterling by police officers to that of three officers slain this weekend. A set of senseless killings that have found their roots at the base of our country’s unresolved racial history. While we must wait to see the full cause of the recent killings in Louisiana, what we do know is that #BlackLivesMatter even when they are dressed in blue and set with the task to protect and serve.

Since the identities of the slain officers were released, we’ve been left with details that can’t help but bring one to tears as we read about people such as Baton Rouge police officer Montrell Jackson. His story is best summed up in a tweet from journalist Trymaine Lee about MSNBC’s interview with one of the officer’s neighbors: “He was a police officer, but he was also a proud black man.” Jackson’s death leaves us with the question of what happens when a cop is also a black American simply trying to go home to his wife and children? In a nearly prophetic statement, Jackson had recently posted this on Facebook.

“Please don’t let hate infect your heart. This city MUST and WILL get better. I’m working in these streets so any protesters, officers, friends, family, or whoever, if you see me and need a hug or want to say a prayer, I got you.”

This message by a slain officer sucks the air out of the room, and makes every American cry out at what we have become. Here we have the great conundrum of pitting the fight for racial justice as if it’s between black America and cops, rather than looking deeper at the system.

This conflict is not Black Lives Matter versus the police, nor is it even as simple as black versus white. This is America reckoning with its history’s impact on its people, and reaching toward healing. It is privilege getting honest with the source of its advantage, and the cost keeping that privilege intact creates.

It is a moment that brings athletes, entertainers and others out of the long shadow of what corporate sponsors will think if they speak out. And instead has them follow the path forged on issues of social justice set by those who came before them, such as the late baseball player Jackie Robinson and the late boxer Muhammad Ali.

We are now a nation under siege by our own because of how our historical woes have festered.

As I have consistently stated, the answer is not found in violence, it is in political activity. We must vote in local and national elections on issues that range across the board. We must be active in our education on mass incarceration, and its disproportionate impact on black families. We must be part of school boards to make sure we are actively engaged in deciding where the funds allocated to educate our children go and how they are used. We must make demands of President Barack Obama and Attorney General Loretta Lynch on those issues that are beyond our control.

In all, we must control what we can and push those who have the power to make changes we cannot make ourselves to move our nation ever forward.

Antonio Moore, an attorney based in Los Angeles, is one of the producers of the documentary, "Freeway: Crack in the System." He has contributed pieces to the Grio, Huffington Post and Inequality.org on the topics of race, mass incarceration and economics.