After the fatal shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile prompted nationwide rallies against police brutality, a gunman killed five police officers at an otherwise peaceful protest in Dallas. Friday morning, The New York Post (notorious for its controversial headlines) hit newstands with the cover: “CIVIL WAR: Four Cops Killed At Anti-Police Protest.” The article itself simply described the Dallas rally — which was anti-police brutality, by the way, not "anti-police" — and subsequent shooting. So why did the publication incite racial tension and fear by invoking the bloodiest war in American history?
And the Post wasn't the only conservative voice fanning the flames. Former GOP congressman and right-wing radio host Joe Walsh escalated things even further after the Dallas shooting with a threatening tweet. “3 Dallas Cops killed, 7 wounded,” he wrote. “This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you.” Walsh is not only calling for violence against Obama and Black Lives Matter, but implying that neither are part of “Real America.”
Walsh has been spewing racist commentary for years, but it strikes a deafening chord now that someone with similar views is steps away from the White House. Donald Trump's candidacy has been built on fear-mongering and divisive rhetoric.
In the 13 months since he’s announced his bid for the White House, the billionaire has called for a U.S.-Mexico border wall (which already exists) and a ban on Muslim immigration, failed to condemn a former KKK leader’s endorsement, and encouraged his supporters to react violently to protesters. He constantly uses “us” vs. “them” rhetoric to frame his policies, and it’s been proven that since Trump’s candidacy, there’s been a spike in both racism and fears of racism.
Both U.S. President Barack Obama and Black Lives Matter have responded to the shooting by condemning the shooter's actions and vigilante justice in general. Not that the latter needed to: The alleged gunman, Micah Johnson, made no claims to be affiliated with Black Lives Matter and in fact, seemingly cited his anger with the group as well as recent police shootings and “white people” as the reason for his spree.
The blood spilled in Dallas is on the hands of one man, an army veteran with likely mental issues, seemingly acting alone — not on Black Lives Matter or the other activists in attendance, who are reported to have protected officers last night. But if we allow hateful, fear-mongering rhetoric to divide our country even further, the Post's absurd cover will become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and we will only see more death.