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In Dallas, Fear That 'Love And Understanding Will Never Win'

Protesters react as police officers arrest a bystander in downtown Dallas following Thursday's shooting.
Laura Buckman
AFP/Getty Images
Protesters react as police officers arrest a bystander in downtown Dallas following Thursday's shooting.

We're still waiting for the full picture of what happened in Dallas, Texas — and in Baton Rouge, La., and in Falcon Ridge, Minn., for that matter — to emerge. But what we know so far is this: In Dallas on Thursday night, hundreds of people gathered for what had been a peaceful protest over the deaths of Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Louisiana, two black men who were killed by police officers earlier in the week.

As the demonstration was winding down, shots were fired at Dallas police officers who were monitoring the march. Five officers were killed, and seven more were wounded. Two civilians were also injured.

The man who authorities say was the shooter has been identified as Micah Xavier Johnson, a 25-year-old African-American military veteran. At a morning press conference, Dallas Police Chief David Brown said the shooter was killed by a police "bomb robot," but had told the police hostage negotiator that he "was upset about Black Lives Matter" and that he "wanted to kill white people, especially white officers." According to Brown, Johnson also said he "was not affiliated with any groups and that he did this alone." Brown was passionate in his call for unity:

"We're hurting. Our profession is hurting. Dallas officers are hurting. We are heart-broken. There are no words to describe the atrocity that occurred to our city. All I know is that this, this most stop, this divisiveness between our police and our citizens...

I spoke with the families of the deceased and the injured. They are not having a good time trying to deal, absorb this. Trying to understand why. And they need your prayers. So please, join us in helping us comfort the grieving officers' families. And I'll trust that soon, because we're working very diligently and processing the crime scene to find evidence to bring any of the suspects to justice that were a part of this. But please pray for our strength through this trying time. Thank you."

Here's some of what we're seeing from other folks who are from or who live in Dallas:

"I'm scared for my life," Zignat Abdisubhan, a 27-year-old who lives in Garland, a suburb of Dallas, wrote to Code Switch in an email. She identifies as a first-generation African-American Muslim woman. "I'm scared to protest. I'm scared for my future sons. I'm scared that this divide between the so-called 'sides' in this police brutality debate will be ever deepened. You can be pro-BLM and pro-police. That's a thing. I'm scared that it will always be us vs. them after this. I'm scared that love and understanding will never win."

We also heard from Joe Jones, a 35-year-old who moved to Dallas three years ago. Jones, who's black, was a pastor for seven years. He told us over Skype that — prior to the Dallas shootings — he'd seen a tonal shift in the way his friends and acquaintances talk about race and policing.

"I think that Philando Castile in particular — it was so personal in a way that people who were in the middle, specifically white people, could feel and empathize in a way that I had never seen before," Jones said, citing reports that Castile was in the car with his girlfriend and her daughter, and that Castile was carrying a permit for his gun. "Folks who I had never seen sympathize with a young black man who had been shot by a cop were able to say for the first time, 'I can see myself in that position. I know that he did the thing that was expected of him to do,' and they reacted by starting to think about and question whether or not there was an issue."

Jones said that that there's a false binary between folks who condemn police violence against black Americans, and those who support police officers. "The people on both sides are still in a grieving place where pain is a unifier."

On social media, folks expressed a full range of reactions. A Twitter user in Dallas seemed to share Jones' perspective, that pain sometimes unifies:

Others seemed overwhelmed:

One woman from Dallas wrote that her "heart goes out to the city [she] grew up in," and that she's unsure of how to respond to everything that's been happening. She added:

We'll continue updating this post as we hear more stories. Tweet at us @NPRCodeSwitch or email us at codeswitch@npr.org to share yours.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Leah Donnella is an editor on NPR's Code Switch team, where she helps produce and edit for the Code Switch podcast, blog, and newsletter. She created the "Ask Code Switch" series, where members of the team respond to listener questions about how race, identity, and culture come up in everyday life.