Kim Dickens turned from the grill where she was working, started to talk, and fell into tears.
“I’m so upset at what happened in Dallas last night,” said Dickens, working at Dorothy D’s in Kansas City, Kan., the corner diner she opened three years ago at 2001 N. 5th Street in her grandmother’s name. “The senseless killing of innocent people because they’re white and they’re cops? We’re all human. That’s what we need to focus on.”
She stepped outside, distraught.
“What I see is a nation divided and under siege by its own people,” she continued. “That’s what I see. I’m just heartbroken. I’m heartbroken at the state of our country.”
She shook her head.
“There are no words to describe how I feel. I don’t know what to feel. I just know that something needs to be done. … Just to be killed because you’re white, and you’re a cop? I mean, it’s just as bad as being pulled over because you’re black.
“It has to stop, and I don’t know how we’ll make it stop.”
But she believes she knows where some of the blame lies.
“I think the gun laws are horrific. I honestly do,” she said. “I think it has perpetuated a lot of things that are happening today. They say we have the right to carry a gun, but I don’t believe that. I think white America has a right to carry a gun, and we can go get them, but we better not have them with us is how I feel.
“That’s just how I feel.
“I’m just hurt, I’m hurt. I’m just sad for America. I can honestly say that if we had a protest today, I’m not sure I would go because I don’t feel safe. I don’t feel safe in my own country.
“I think we’re worried about terrorist acts overseas. We’re committing terrorist attacks against each other. That’s what this is. This is terrorism, and we’re doing it to ourselves.”
‘All lives matter’
Communities have been on edge ever since the riots in Ferguson, said the Rev. C.L. Bachus, senior pastor at the Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Kansas City, Kan.
Black lives do matter, and still matter, he said. It is as true today as it was on Tuesday, when a black man was killed by a police officer in Baton Rouge, La., and on Wednesday, when another man, Philando Castile, was shot in Minnesota by a police officer as Castile sat in the front seat of his car.
A year ago this month, Bachus and other area ministers gathered at his church for a vigil to pray for peace and for the lives of nine black people gunned down inside a historic black church in Charleston, S.C.
None of that gives credence to the killings in Dallas on Thursday, he said.
“All lives really do matter, as well as black lives,” he said.
“There are some police officers who, I think, out of frustration, sometimes do things that are not in keeping with what their jobs are all about. However, they too would like to go home at night to their families. Their families would like to see them come home, like any of us.
“Since the Ferguson affair, it has been really, really difficult because everybody’s been on edge for a good while. Right now, we’re in a very, very hard position as to who to blame.”
But blaming may not offer solutions. A key, he said, is responsibility
“I think we have to realize that the community does have responsibilities. And public officials and law enforcement officers ought to be responsible for doing everything that they can do to make sure that they do not act out of their own emotions. …
“People need to be treated safely. They need to be treated with respect until they prove otherwise. I don’t think the police department ought to be handcuffed in doing their jobs. I think that law enforcement officers ought to have the option of doing their jobs. I don’t think they ought to have the option of overdoing their jobs.”
Said Bachus, “All lives matter.”
Worried about the future
Sonja Bachman watched with horror to see the streaming video of a black man in Minnesota dying in a car from a policeman’s bullet. Horrified again on Thursday night at shootings of law enforcement officers in Dallas, the mother of three took to social media.
“I actually posted last night, as soon as it (the news) came out, that I’m worried for my children’s futures,” Bachman said.
Three of her children and two of her nieces ran around her Friday splashing through the fountains of North Kansas City’s Dagg Park.
Bachman understands and gives credence to the complaints of African-Americans and their treatment by police. She gets “Black Lives Matter” and knows how deep and persistent racism can go.
“There are a lot of people who don’t feel that black and whites are equal,” she said. “I mean most of us, I think, now, we see each other as human beings. We’re all equal. There’s just certain people who don’t feel like that.”
Now it all just seems so frightening. “Things just keep getting crazier and crazier,” she said.
For her, the lasting effect of Dallas is just an overarching unease and sense that her own childhood was different.
“Everybody’s more expressing their thoughts on what they don’t think is fair and they are doing it in a manner that is just not safe,” she said, making it difficult not to contrast today to her image of her past.
“We used to run around the neighborhood from dusk to dawn and not have anything to worry about,” Bachman said. “Streetlights came on, and we went home. Get dropped off at the mall and go have fun with your friends. Didn’t have to worry about mass shootings.”
Dallas native reacts
Given the stream of racial violence since Ferguson, and especially in the last week with Baton Rouge and Minnesota, Patrick Beebe of Kansas City said he wasn’t necessarily surprised to see the backlash of violence.
It nonetheless saddened him.
“I certainly think that that is the last thing that every protestor there wanted. It’s the opposite of what they’re going for,” Beebe, of Kansas City, said Friday afternoon. A 22-year-old country singer originally from Dallas, he had brought his dog to play in a park near Liberty Memorial.
“As far as what I hope comes out of it,” he said, “is a lot more people are coming out and showing support and realizing that you can’t fight fire with fire. It doesn’t work like that.
“I understand all the anger and frustration that’s fueled this. But I certainly don’t think that’s a cause to take it out on law enforcement. I don’t think that’s the right way to address your anger.
“It’s a pretty sad thing. …
“I think that this is not feeding the right emotion or taking it in the right direction.”
Getting a gun
Originally from mainland China, Charlie Xiong views the events in Dallas from a global and economic standpoint.
More frightening and of greater concern for the country, said Xiong, buying groceries at the City Market downtown, is the rise of terrorist-related killings of the sort that has brought violence to Paris, Turkey and, in the U.S., San Bernardino and Orlando.
At 22, Xiong is a graduate student at the University of Missouri in Columbia, doing a summer accounting internship in Kansas City.
From his point of view, the Dallas sniper was “some random guy going crazy,” and not representative of the Black Lives Movement taking a violent turn.
He believes much would improve between black people and law enforcement if the economy would improve, because crime would go down and black people less likely to be targeted.
He also predicts politicians will want to start restricting the rights of people to carry guns, a move that he would not support.
“No,” Xiong said, “because I don’t have a gun yet and everyone else has one. It’s not fair for me. I’m going to get one. I will get one, in the next couple of months. …
“I feel insecure. Because everyone around me, they have a gun. … I just don’t feel secure. I don't feel safe.”
The ‘big conflict’
The police shooting of Castile in Minnesota on Wednesday, then 12 officers shot, 5 dead in Dallas.
The way Bruce Walker, 29, sees it, it’s all about the coming “war” — the perpetual battle between those with power and those without.
“Without conflict, there is no war,” Walker said Friday morning outside a housing project in Kansas City, Kan.
But the war is bigger than people think, Walker feels, reflecting on the “Black Lives Matter” movement nearly two years post Ferguson, a year after nine people were shot dead at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.
The war is not about what people think — black versus white, or cops versus civilians. That’s been going on in America forever.
“Nothing new about that,” Walker said.
“There’s a system out there,” he said. It’s a system, he believes, that feeds on and profits from conflict. It’s about the media, politicians, big business and big government, who will focus on what they want to control and subjugate the populace, to pass laws it likes and dismantle those it doesn’t.
Where is it all leading?
“To war. Like I said, there’s going to be a big conflict,” he said.