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Hope and DespairThis loss of life is heartbreaking.

In the last few days, at least two men of color have died after being shot by police officers, just the latest in a devastating string of shootings of men of color by law enforcement. One of the killings this week was witnessed by a 4-year-old child whose life will be forever affected.

This morning, five officers from the Dallas Police Department are dead and seven wounded, directly targeted and killed after serving to support safety at a protest that, to all accounts so far, was peaceful, with reports of positive interactions between protesters and police.

These officers were serving in a department that has a positive reputation for community policing, not for use of excessive force or for police brutality.

I struggle to find words. At the same time, now is not the time for silence.

I am recalling that, as a child, I started every school day facing the American Flag with my hand on my heart saying the Pledge of Allegiance and resonating with the final words: “… with liberty and justice for all.”

I also remember studying the Declaration of Independence with the promise of, “.. the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

And I remember being thankful that my grandparents escaped the Holocaust because this country welcomed them.

My life’s work has been dedicated to bringing more “liberty and justice for all” and the opportunity to the right to “life, liberty,and the pursuit of happiness” for as many people as possible in a world that is too often uncertain and even cruel.

Like so many, I am deeply sad and horrified about how so many people have died from the tragic police shootings in this country, especially of young men of color. I do not think most of the officers involved had evil intentions – I think their perceptions and actions were shaped by the stress they are under and their world view.

I am saddened and horrified by the killings of the Dallas police officers. Will we learn more about the intentions of those involved in the days to come? How have their actions, too, been shaped by stress and world view?

I firmly believe that institutionalized oppression, prejudice, and bias are playing a key role in this suffering and bloodshed, and we have long passed the time for reckoning. The price to be paid for turning away is too high and will continue to be shouldered unfairly and inequitably by too few — who have already paid too much.

I think that the only way we can change institutionalized oppression and prejudice is to change ourselves and others through greater understanding, compassion, and skills.

Many people have told us that these two articles were helpful in exploring these issues:

Understanding Institutionalized Oppression: Protecting Young People From Prejudice Through Knowledge and Skills

Facing Prejudice with Compassion and Determination: What can each of us do to create greater justice and safety?

I am an optimist and truly believe we can work together towards creating a world where “liberty and justice for all” and the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” become realities for EVERYONE, regardless of the color of their skin, their culture, their spiritual beliefs, their sexual orientation or gender identity, their level of income, their disabilities of any kind, the role they play in preserving and protecting our communities and our most vulnerable, or other differences.

Thank you for being with me on this journey.


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Published: July 8, 2016   |   Last Updated: July 8, 2016

Kidpower Founder and Executive Irene van der Zande is a master at teaching safety through stories and practices and at inspiring others to do the same. Her child protection and personal safety expertise has been featured by USA Today, CNN, Today Moms, the LA Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Publications include: cartoon-illustrated Kidpower Safety Comics and Kidpower Teaching Books curriculum; Bullying: What Adults Need to Know and Do to Keep Kids Safe; the Relationship Safety Skills Handbook for Teens and Adults; Earliest Teachable Moment: Personal Safety for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers; The Kidpower Book for Caring Adults: Personal Safety, Self-Protection, Confidence, and Advocacy for Young People, and the Amazon Best Seller Doing Right by Our Kids: Protecting Child Safety at All Levels.