Paul Quinn College President, Michael J. Sorrell, says ‘People Without Hope become Desperate, Then Dangerous’

Ting Shen/Staff Photographer Allyson LaFrance, 22, and Amber Shields, 26, aired their feelings at a service at Concord Church in Dallas on Friday, a day after five police officers were killed and several others wounded in an ambush during a Black Lives Matter protest downtown.
Ting Shen/Staff Photographer
Allyson LaFrance, 22, and Amber Shields, 26, aired their feelings at a service at Concord Church in Dallas on Friday, a day after five police officers were killed and several others wounded in an ambush during a Black Lives Matter protest downtown.

Where do I even begin? How do I summon the words and emotions necessary to revisit this place of wrath and sorrow one more time? I wanted to believe that the last time would be the last time. But it appears I was wrong. 

Earlier this week, I watched the videos of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile’s last moments on this earth and thought, “Damn, those two men did not do ANYTHING to justify being killed in that manner.”

In fact, in watching those recordings, I could not help but think that both men had obviously learned the lessons from last summer’s events and intentionally engaged the police in a way that was designed to de-escalate the situation and leave them with their lives. By most impartial accounts, neither man resisted arrest nor threatened the officers. Yet the results were exactly the same as we have seen time and time again.

Watching those videos left me with a deep sense of frustration. How am I supposed to keep my son and daughter safe if there are no rules of engagement now? How do I keep my students safe? How am I even going to keep myself safe?

Those questions dominated my thoughts on the matter until Thursday night, when, as I sat with a potential donor in a restaurant in Seattle, I watched my city descend into madness and chaos. As I spent the next 12 hours frantically searching for Paul Quinn College students, alumni and staff members via telephone, Facebook, Twitter and email, my thoughts and feelings began to change.

While my heart is broken for the families of the officers who were shot, if I am being completely honest with myself, I am not completely surprised by this turn of events. You see, hate does not exist in a vacuum. There is only so long that hateful words written in blog comments and social media posts or spoken at campaign rallies can exist without poisoning people and altering the landscape.

We as members of a society are not wired to allow such venom to roll off our backs without becoming infected by some part of it. What we witnessed Thursday night in Dallas were the actions of one man who, due to the behavior of a relatively small group of people, had lost hope in our society. He was not, however, alone in his disillusionment, and that is what should scare us the most. For history has taught us that people without hope become desperate — then dangerous.

The reality is that we are at a tipping point in this country. As we stand and stare out into the abyss caused by this chain of events, we must determine who we shall be as a country and how we will get there.

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Source: Dallas Morning News

Michael J. Sorrell is president of Paul Quinn College in Dallas. Email: president@pqc.edu