This will be the defining photograph of the year. Ieshia Evans traveled from Brooklyn to Baton Rouge to join a peaceful protest.

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A demonstrator, later identified as Ieshia Evans, was witnessed protesting the shooting death of Alton Sterling in a viral photo taken in Baton Rouge, La., on Saturday.

(photo © JONATHAN BACHMAN / REUTERS/REUTERS)

Ieshia Evans traveled from Brooklyn to Baton Rouge to join a peaceful protest. Why? Her son deserves a better future.

What is complicated about this photograph is the context. The riot gear looks insane in our streets. Just like the tanks in Ferguson did. Just like an assault weapon does in an elementary school or a movie theater. Just like an assault weapon anywhere at all does.

The riot gear is being worn by people who are paid to protect. If I were a police officer, I would understand the want to be wearing riot gear right now, because my uniform would be a problem, make me a target. If I were an African-American mother, I would be protesting. Peacefully.

Am I protesting right now? This post is a protest. Words are a powerful form of protest. Words and images are needed now. Shouting is not needed, but it is also understandable. It’s not about taking a side. It’s about talking and listening and awareness. Some would say riot gear is needed. Tanks are needed. I would say the tools of war do not belong anywhere on our own streets. I would say riot gear means everyone is PREPARED for a riot, rather than a peaceful protest. This is fear at work. This is not necessary caution.

The thing that makes the picture more stunning is the quiet of the moment. The billowing summer dress. The statuesque pose of Ieshia. The quick movements of the police. There was no violence taking place. But the threat of violence (riot gear, quick movements, and all of the images we have seen in our collective recent memories) is palpable.

We need to see all of it.
We need to see the officers harming us.
We need to see the officers protecting us.
We need to know and feel the things we cannot see.

The structural and institutional injustice that surrounds people of color and the jobs of the police paid to protect. We have to stop living in fear of each other, but how can you blame people who are threatened for being afraid? It’s the fear that shoots adrenaline through the blood. It’s the lack of inner calm that pulls the trigger.

Then read Natasha Howell’s hopeful post about her encounter with an officer that led to compassion and empathy.

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