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How people of different races can move forward together

Despite the deep divide between law enforcement and communities of color, people of all backgrounds need to be part of the solution

NEW YORK -- There is no denying the deep divide between law enforcement and communities of color. But what do people from different backgrounds need to understand about each other, to really move forward?

We know the names: Eric Garner, 12-year-old Tamir Rice, and Michael Brown -- a black teenager killed by a white police officer, whose death sparked weeks of angry protests in Ferguson, Missouri.

Brown's death fueled the growth of the movement Black Lives Matter.

This week, it happened again.

Less than 48 hours after Alton Sterling's death at the hands of Baton Rouge police, the country watched in horror as Philando Castile's fiancée captured his dying moments live on social media.

"You shot four bullets into him, sir," Diamond Reynolds said on the live Facebook video, as the officer's gun was still pointed through the car window. "The officer just shot him in his arm."

"She was a woman on fire," according to Terrie Williams, the author of "Black Pain."

"This is not going to be one of those scenarios where a black man is killed and I don't have any way to shape it in any way," Williams told CBS News. "That was my sense -- she was fighting. Fighting for his life, for his spirit."

For many African Americans, the raw reality of watching all of these videos is a tough punch in the gut.

"I have had to personally stop watching, you know, because I can't take that in anymore," Williams said.

"At this point, us watching the video is tragedy porn," said video blogger Luvvie Ajayi. Her post has had more than 100,000 views on social media. "We keep watching the video, for what? Just to get used to watching one of us get killed again?"

White people need to watch these videos -- that's what anti-racism educator Tim Wise believes.

"Until we are prepared to look at what often -- too often -- does happen to black and brown bodies posing no threat to law enforcement, until we are prepared to look at the arc in history giving us one after another after another case like this, then I think we're going to continue to pile pain upon pain, and never solve the problems," Wise told CBS News.

In Ohio, police officer Nakia Jones was clearly hurting.

"I'm here because I wanted to make a difference. But how dare you stand next to me in the same uniform and murder somebody? How dare you? You ought to be ashamed of yourself," Jones told her fellow law enforcement officers in an online video.

"So why don't we just keep it real?" Jones continued. "If you're that officer, that you know good and well you got a God complex, you're afraid of people that don't look like you, you have no business in that uniform! Take it off!"

Michael Eric Dyson says it's personal.

"No matter how compliant we are with the demands of a police department, it seems that sometimes, we still end up dead as a result of our interactions with the police," Dyson told CBS News.

Now, he's a prominent Georgetown University professor but as a young man, he had his own painful encounters with police.

"Being accosted, being thrown up against a car, being physically assaulted -- those are not pleasant memories," Dyson recalled.

He penned a piece for the New York Times called "Death in Black and White."

"We're caught between the rage that burns deep within because we are dehumanized, we're not seen as fully human beings by many of our white brothers and sisters and others," Dyson said. "On the other hand, we are incapable of making people understand and ultimately acknowledge our humanity."

"I just feel like something has to be said. Somebody has to stand up and say, 'This is not okay,'" Tampa Pastor Savanna Hartman, who is trying to do just that, said in an online video.

She summed it up in a rhyme: "We can't change the past, but we can change what's ahead. We can change who we are so less people are dead."

But that was far from the thinking of the sniper who killed five police officers in Dallas. Terrie Williams believes Micah Johnson may have felt he had nothing to lose.

"There are a myriad of thoughts that must have come through his mind," Williams speculated. "'I don't have any option. I'm a black man in this country, and a bullet could take me down at any second for no reason....' It definitely doesn't justify it."

"When we saw what happened in Dallas, we were among the first voices to say, 'This is wrong, this is evil, this must not be celebrated,'" Dyson said. "But in the same token, we must also have those police people and others who feel sympathetic to them understand the plight and predicament of black and brown people as well."

But the impact on the next generation remains to be seen. This week, we've watched their anguish: Alton Sterling's teenage son, sobbing as his mother spoke about his dad.

And Diamond Reynolds' four-year-old daughter -- moments after the little girl saw Philando Castile being shot by a police officer -- reassuring her mom, "It's okay, I'm right here with you."


A Dallas Police officer hugs a child who came to pay respects at a makeshift memorial at Dallas Police Headquarters, following the shooting deaths of five officers, on July 9, 2016.

REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

"I was thinking about that little girl that was in the backseat, that someone needs to talk with her -- she needs to be in a room with crayons and paper so she can draw what she's thinking and feeling," Williams said. "I think it's important for young people to give language to what it is that they experience, and I think we need to encourage that. We have to talk about it."

So what do parents tell their children?

"We as white parents have to take the issue just as seriously as black and brown parents have to," Wise said. "They do it to keep their children alive. We have to do it, not only so that those persons of color can enjoy equity and justice, but so that we can have a functioning country in the rest of this century and beyond."

  • Michelle Miller

    Michelle Miller is an award-winning CBS News correspondent based in New York, reporting for all CBS News broadcasts and platforms. Her work regularly appears on the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley", "CBS This Morning" and "CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood". She joined CBS News in 2004.