Healing America Together With Justice, Empathy

07/11/2016 06:24 pm ET Updated Jul 12, 2017

If our country needs one thing today, it's healing. A tidal wave of grief has swept through our cities, flooding communities in every zip code across America.

Two recent fatal, police-involved shootings -- claiming the lives of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, L.A. and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, MN -- have caused anguish and outrage.

This, followed by horror and sorrow at news of the Dallas sniper attack that claimed five officers' lives and injured seven more during an otherwise peaceful demonstration in Texas.

In the aftermath, Americans, especially directly impacted communities and law enforcement agencies, feel exhausted and emotionally raw.

These incidents have opened pre-existing racial wounds, exacerbated racial tensions and set back efforts to dismantle structural racism.

Many members of the Black community and police officers both report feeling targeted, while hard-won progress on police reform falls under scrutiny in some of America's most beleaguered cities

Over recent years, the Dallas Police Department, once notorious for police violence, has evolved into a model for police reform.

Since taking the reins in 2010, Dallas Police Chief David Brown followed through on his pledge to work with activists and community leaders to increase transparency and accountability.

Police training was revised to include de-escalation tactics. Reports indicate complaints of excessive force against officers fell by over 60% between 2009-'14.

This is especially significant because the rift between law enforcement and communities of color has grown after numerous high-profile, police-involved deaths of Black men and women including Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner and Mike Brown.

As attempts grow to derail the focus from systemic violence long endured by Black communities, it's important to note that public outrage over officer-involved shootings and attacks targeting police is not mutually exclusive.

It is possible to mourn loss of life on both sides. A social contract places the burden of trust on police officers sworn to protect and serve, but one tragedy does not erase or diminish the significance of the other.

We can and should unequivocally condemn attacks on law enforcement while also demanding justice and accountability for victims of unjust police violence.

Legitimate grievances do not justify illegitimate means. But if we are serious about healing our entire nation as opposed to appeasing parts of it, then we must acknowledge that the frustration and anger in America's Black communities are recurring symptoms of societal ills.

Rooted in hatred and fear, systemic racism reinforces these ills and is deeply embedded in the fabric of our society.

We must transform this hatred, conquer this fear, and deliver justice to those who have been wronged.

People directly impacted by injustices must be part of the conversation about what that justice looks like to them.

During times like this, our nation needs compassion and courage, understanding and empathy. We need honest conversations about privilege and prejudice in our homes and social circles.

We cannot feel afraid to be present in uncomfortable spaces or to confront uncomfortable truths.

People seldom recognize privilege from a personal perspective. Our lenses are often obscured by our environment and experiences.

But we must acknowledge that this failure to recognize privilege does not mean that those of us who have it do not benefit from it.

If we do not need to have conversations with our youth about how to survive police encounters, we enjoy privilege.

If we are able to walk down city streets without being suspiciously stopped and questioned, we enjoy privilege.

As a non-Black activist of color, I am acutely aware of my privilege as I write this.

Ethnic and racial minorities in America benefit from the Black struggle and the White supremacist ideologies that perpetuate it.

It is the responsibility of those of us who are not Black to understand that we have been deliberately or inadvertently complicit in perpetuating anti-Blackness and bolstering the paradigm that commodifies members of that community.

This means that we have an obligation to not only share the burden of it, but also support Black organizations and institutions that are working to dismantle it.

Existential crises stemming from our own regret or guilt cannot suppress or obscure the indignation, grief, rage or sorrow of those targeted by injustices.

Strengthening our nation requires a firm commitment to healing. We can heal by summoning the willpower to defiantly refuse to feel afraid of one another.

Let's accept, empower and celebrate all of the unique racial, religious, and ethnic groups that comprise our diverse country, and their countless contributions to society.

Let's refuse to be defined by what separates us and choose to be defined by what unites us: our shared humanity.

Most importantly, let's affirm our unwavering commitment to dismantling structural inequalities and establishing justice for Black communities that have been denied it too long.

Our country will live up to its ideals of liberty, equality, and opportunity when we permanently delete the "us versus them" dichotomy from our cultural framework that dehumanizes and devalues these communities.

The famous African-American writer and activist James Baldwin said: "Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without, and know we cannot live within."

Channeling love and empathy, leveraging faith and courage, let's remove these superficial masks and heal together.