I'm a City Council Member in Allen, Where the El Paso Shooter Lived. We've Got to Do Something About Violence

I'm a City Council member in Allen. Recently our city was rocked by a mass shooting, not because our residents were killed, but because one of our residents killed 22 people in El Paso. Like everything these days, the event has been debated and discussed all over our local social media groups with people coming out divided in two.What is happening in our communities? Why are we having to prepare ourselves and our children for the possibility of violence whenever we go out in public? There are several variables that contribute to the current epidemic, but one particularly stands out as something that you and I can affect in our schools and our neighborhoods.There is a profile that comes up again and again when mass shootings occur. This isn't the profile of all mass shooters, but enough to be worthy of our attention. In several incidents, the perpetrator has been a white male with no history of mental illness who has experienced some personal trauma or abuse, has been preparing and planning for the event for a significant amount of time, and has been radicalized by white nationalists. Their rallying cry is, "You will not replace us!"One of these terrorists grew up in my neighborhood. Like most neighborhoods in Collin County, we are incredibly diverse. I don't think my street is a majority anything. We have families from many continents, religions and races. The same goes for the schools our children attend. I would need more than fingers and toes to count the languages spoken at my sons' elementary school. I often think that exposure to differences instills tolerance, but this man was exposed and still grew into a hateful and violent murderer. So, what else can we do?I've been spending a lot of time this past week thinking about what we can do as a community to combat this epidemic. I will not accept that we have no say in our destiny. One person can make a difference, but can you imagine the difference a whole city working together can make?We have people among us who are afraid of being replaced. What does that mean? I think it means that they believe they will no longer hold the reins of power. They believe the diversity that we experience in our community is a threat to their very existence. In most cases they are coming from a place of pain and fear. As much as we may want to turn our backs, perhaps what is really needed is an embrace and an increased show of compassion.Cities around the country have tried diversity and inclusion initiatives of varying shapes and sizes. It's very easy to be aggressive when you're hiding behind a computer screen and an internet connection, so any program we develop needs to be in person, face to face. We need to engage our community where they live and when they are available. We need to go out and bring the message of tolerance into the homes and lives of those who are most difficult to reach. Programs could take the form of public speakers, book clubs, neighborhood events or concerts. They need to be both educational and entertaining, and involve all of our vulnerable populations. We need to be loud and clear that we love our neighbors and we back our words with action.I don't know if programs like these will work. The one thing I know for certain is that we must do something. In fact, we probably need to try to do several things. To foster community and cultural understanding, our city should take the lead by creating a new board to advise us on how to better celebrate everyone who lives here. Perhaps they would find that we need to hold more inclusive cultural events, run discussion groups that bring people from different backgrounds together, or just plaster the city with messages of love.To reduce the chances of more of these events taking place, I also call on our state and federal legislators to pass a red flag law. Red flag laws have been shown to reduce suicide by gun, and with more of these laws in place, they might do the same for mass shooting events. If state and federal lawmakers will not act, our City Council should pass our own red flag law. If such a law had been in place just one month ago, those 22 killed in El Paso would still be with us today.We know it's not our fault that this man chose violence, but does it really matter where the blame is placed? This is our community. This is our country. It will be what we make of it. We, as adults, don't stop at cleaning up only the messes we make, but rather we work to solve the problems that affect everyone.Let's come together in Allen and across the country and come up with the next steps. Let's build programs that combat fear and hatred. Let's bring in the people who feel they are being replaced and fill them with our love and compassion. Let's lift them up so they don't feel left behind. It could mean the difference between life and death.Lauren Doherty is an Allen City Council member. She wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.  Continue reading...

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