3 very different tweets reveal a painful truth about inequality in America.

The shootings that interrupted an otherwise peaceful protest in Dallas on July 7, 2016, were terrible.

They were also a statistical anomaly and not evidence of a pattern of wider violence. I'll explain that in a moment.

First, here are three images that can help us understand how to process our feelings about this truly awful event. They represent three different, contrasting realities that currently exist in the U.S.:


1. Here's a photo that was taken in Dallas on that same night, before things took a tragic turn:

This photo represents an ideal situation — and in fact, it's a pretty accurate representation of the celebrated work done by the Dallas Police Department in community policing.

If police are public servants who are meant to uphold our rights as citizens, then it is right that they would stand in solidarity with those exercising their First Amendment rights to protest against injustice.

I like to think that the moment reflected here is an accurate representation of the majority of police officers.

These are our brothers and sisters and neighbors and friends, people who willingly enter into a career where they're more likely to encounter a hostile situation than, say, a writer like me. But a lot of their work is doing exactly what you see them doing in this photo.

2. That's the reality of America. But so is this:

American police are also responsible for killing around 1,000 people each year in the United States. Tragically, a disproportionate number of those people are black Americans24% per a Washington Post calculation, despite the fact that black Americans comprise only 13% of the U.S. population.

By contrast, the number of police officers killed in the line of duty is much lower and has notably decreased over time. 51 of the 96 police officers who died in the line of duty in 2014 were killed during felonious acts, according to the FBI — killed through the actions of another person, rather than as a result of an accident. 71% of the offenders responsible for those murders were white, despite white people making up 64% of the U.S. population today.

None of this means that officers, particularly those who give their lives in the line of duty, aren't brave and noble individuals worthy of appreciation, of course. But it does mean that it's more likely for a bartender or garbage collector to be killed on the job than it is for a black man to shoot and kill a police officer.

So despite the general high-stakes job, there's no logical reason for police to feel particularly threatened by or anxious around black Americans, despite this shooting.

And yet, this photo still represents the tragic reality that black Americans are forced to live with every day. Regardless of your feelings toward police, I hope you can empathize with the fear that black Americans have during encounters with police — because it is statistically justified. Black Americans are 2.5 times more likely than white Americans to be killed by police, even though white Americans are more likely to kill cops.

This is unfortunate, but it's the truth.

3. We've seen one reality where cops are good but shouldn't feel overly threatened by black people. We've seen another where black Americans are justified in fearing the police. And then there's this:

Screenshot via Twitter.

This tweet was made by a former U.S. congressman from Illinois in the aftermath of the shooting in Dallas. It has since been deleted, although he still stands by the sentiment.

This tweet is indicative of the source of most of the controversy about violence — about whose lives matter and about when those lives can matter. This tweet is the insidious virus of white supremacy laid bare for all to see by a white man in a position of power and influence. It is proof that white supremacy still exists today.

And unfortunately, it is not a statistical anomaly.

It is people like this who create a system that continues to disadvantage black Americans 150 years after the formal end of slavery.

Their actions and influence lead to poverty, which leads to desperation, which leads to racial profiling, which leads to more black Americans in jail, which makes it harder for black Americans to get jobs, which leads to more poverty, desperation, and other problems.

It is people like this who use their power to appeal to the most rotten fears in the hearts of other Americans by pointing to statistical anomalies like a sniper at a Black Lives Matter protest and using that anomaly as evidence or justification of some greater evil while ignoring all other persistent evidence to the contrary.

It is these same people who will readily classify any white shooter as a "lone wolf" or as "mentally ill" — perpetuating the idea that only white people are allowed to be individuals while all minorities must stand as representatives for their entire group. They are the same people who dig up dirt on murdered black Americans while reminiscing about white mass murderers as quiet, gentle men.

You're not going to be able to end poverty or racism or white supremacy all on your own, which is why the events of the past week can feel difficult.

"Fixing this" can feel overwhelming, and it isn't realistic.

But it's also not realistic to "choose a side," to pit police against black Americans. If we do that, we're letting that specter of white supremacy continue to divide our country.

What we can do is speak out against the injustices we see.

If we do that, maybe we can finally start to mend this broken system.

When someone says something racist or does something oppressive or harmful, we can call them on it. Maybe they didn't mean it; maybe they didn't realize they were saying something that perpetuates the roots of white supremacy. But they're not going to learn unless someone takes the time to explain it.

It's also important to listen to people who have other opinions. A lot of people are hurting right now, and with good reason. You don't even have to agree with them to accept that their pain is justified and their perspectives and experiences are real. Reach out and connect, and try to understand someone else's point of view before forcing them to see it from yours.

And you can volunteer. You can tell your friends. You can amplify the voices of the people who are hurting and try to empathize with everyone you meet. You can get mad and use that energy productively instead of sitting back while these things happen again and again and again because you don't think it affects your life. (It does.)

It is 2016 in the United States of America, and these three photos represent three very different realities that still manage to exist at the same time.

And that, in itself, is a problem worth solving.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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