Bridging the gap between community tragedy and community transformation: A call for long-term primary prevention solutions to violence
Yesterday, we were mourning the devastating news that two more young Black men had been shot and killed by police officers. Last night, we faced more tragic news: five law enforcement officers were gunned down in Dallas at the time of a peaceful protest. Far too often, we are mourning the loss of young Black and Brown lives. Our emotions run the gamut -- from overwhelm, to rage, to fear, to sadness, to confusion, just to name a few. We know many others are feeling the same, and we support and admire those around the country who have turned their despair into action, mobilizing to advance peaceful change.
These are just the two most recent highly visible killings. All of these tragic events underscore the outrage and the complexity of violence, trauma, and inequity. They reflect the growing gaps that divide us -- between law enforcement and the people it is sworn to serve; the gaps in trust; the missed opportunities to lead safe, healthy and thriving lives; and the gaps that exist across racial and ethnic lines. As advocates for community members, we all have an incredibly important role to play moving forward in identifying the types of bridges needed to reach across these gaps that divide us and that stymie equitable opportunities for all.
Our prevention community must intentionally address violence. We understand how inequity is produced, and must take the known steps that can reduce and prevent discrimination, dismantle structural racism and bias, and address community trauma.
Structural violence, including racist practices and policies, keeps people from meeting their basic needs due to an inequitable economic and social structure; lopsided relations of power, privilege, and equality; and biased social institutions. Violence begets trauma and, all too often, more violence. And it’s part of a bigger picture wherein people of color and other disenfranchised populations suffer much worse health and safety outcomes.
We call upon the media to consider its role carefully—to promote the work many are doing to reach long-term solutions, rather than just repetitively broadcasting the immediate problems. Through our UNITY initiative, we see cities all over the country working together successfully on their violence prevention efforts. Through this work, we know cities, community members, and specific police departments are working hard to prevent violence and address implicit bias, and discriminatory norms, cultures, and practices. The Dallas Police Department has been actively focused on constitutional policing and reducing implicit violence. We mourn the tragic loss of life in that department just as we mourn the Black and Brown lives lost at the hands of officers.
We understand that inequity is produced by policies, practices, and attitudes, and specific steps must be taken to address inequities. At Prevention Institute, we will redouble our efforts. We continue to work in partnership with multiple sectors, including a committed set of criminal justice leaders, to figure out what can be done to prevent even more heartbreaking tragedies. We continue to work with community leaders and advocates to ensure the community voice and needs are maximized. We will dissect the structures and systems that don’t support optimal health and safety for all communities and people, and support solutions that make whole communities healthy, safe, and thriving. And we will continue to support the communities and individuals that take on structural violence, including police violence, in direct and impactful ways.