What a week of tragedy. To us at the Peace & Justice Center, it is important to remember that violence does not happen in a bubble. The cycle of violence in the systems of privilege and oppression must be understood.
In our nonviolence workshops, we explain the difference between visible and invisible violence. Invisible violence includes things like not being able to access childcare, losing a housing voucher because you put up a family member recently released from incarceration, restrictive voting rights, and much more. When suffering under this type of violence and unable to create change, it is easy to see why we might internalize that violence as seen in drug addiction, loss of hope, and self-hatred. This in turn can morph into violence against the people in our family and in our community in the form of domestic abuse, so-called “black-on-black” murder, or predatory drug selling. At its most extreme, the perpetual invisible violence experienced by individuals who are disadvantaged by our policies, institutions and cultural norms, creates reactions like what just happened Dallas.
People see this visible violence, point to the perpetrators and people in some way similar to them (in this case, brown and black people), and rationalize the lack of basic rights they are given, by saying they are animals or somehow less deserving. And the cycle goes on.
What I hope people will see, while in no way condoning extreme reactions, is that this is a response to violence – often violence that has been suffered not just an entire life, but for generations, in fact, since the founding of our country. When people fight back against institutions and agents of those institutions, they are often doing it out of a desperation that has been created by the (invisible) violence they live with day in and day out.
Add to the mix that the man who killed the officers is an Army veteran who served active duty. When one is taught, against human nature, that killing is appropriate, it is that much easier to respond to (invisible) violence with (visible) violence. This dehumanization is also part of why police officers have killed so many unarmed black men and women. Human nature revolts against such a thing. Yet when a person is given deadly weapons and enough emotional and physical armor, they are much more likely to go against their nature, misuse their power and create tragedy.
We mourn for those killed in violent attacks. We also mourn for those who kill – they have lost their humanity to such a degree that they are capable of and resort to killing.
-Rachel Siegel, PJC Executive Director