Alton Sterling (left) and Philando Castile

I, being a politically-minded millennial, like to stay abreast of various political issues. The two issues that seem to come up constantly in the news lately are police violence against black people and ISIS. As America tries to solve these issues, what if we treated one issue like the other?

For instance, we could just ignore ISIS; they’re not the real issue. Yep, I said it, just ignore ISIS. I haven’t had any negative experiences personally with people who belong to ISIS, so that must mean no one has had negative experiences with ISIS. Sure, there are literally thousands and thousands of people who have been treated poorly and unfairly by ISIS, but they are probably exaggerating. Even the beatings and killings that are caught red-handed on tape, there’s just stuff you’re not seeing in those plain-as-day videos. And, honestly, if we just obeyed them and give them the Caliphate they want, then perhaps there will be no remaining issues with ISIS. And, really, is ISIS even that big of an issue? I think that the media covering ISIS is more of an issue than ISIS actually is. Like I said: I, personally, have never had a problem. And don’t even get me started on President Obama talking about ISIS! The way he talks about them, you would think he had it out for them or something. The myth of ISIS doesn’t exist, and Obama is tearing our country apart by talking about them.

Perhaps it’s our attitude that sets them off. Maybe if our soldiers were nicer and more respectful towards them then that would cut down on a lot of negative experiences with them. Experiences that I still don’t think exist because I, personally, have not experienced them firsthand. As a matter of fact, why are we so concerned about ISIS when Americans kill other Americans every day here at home? You’re way more likely to be mass murdered on the street, in a movie theater or in a school by fellow American than you are at the hands of ISIS. Fear people in the United States, not the Islamic State! Maybe if we just worried about and fixed our own communities, then the threat from ISIS will just disappear. We need to have respect for each other as Americans before we can get respect from ISIS.

If you stayed with me through all of that, kudos to you. I don’t mean to compare the cops to ISIS to spite them. I understand the dangers that law enforcement officers and our military personnel, for that matter, face every day, and the fact that they are the first to run into situations not knowing what danger is ahead of them. This is something that they don’t get enough respect for. But I make this comparison because anyone with half a brain can tell you that this “solution” that we have pursued in America since its inception makes absolutely no sense. But this was exactly the logic that people like former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani have trotted out as it pertained to police shootings and black-on-black crime — as if the people who decry these shootings are just haters and that the numerous videos floating around proving our point are all photoshopped and phonies. If Giuliani suggested this as an ISIS solution on the Sunday talk show circuit, he would be laughed out of every single studio. So why is he being lauded for making a similar point when it comes to black lives being lost at the hands of law enforcement?

As a black male in this country, I hate to say this, but the fear that some Americans have towards ISIS is a fear similar to the fear that has been cultivated within the black community towards law enforcement officers in this country. Over 100 unarmed African Americans were killed by police last year. You can dismiss this and call me irrational all you want, but when we constantly see skin color criminalized and used as a launching pad for justified homicide, you should be able to see just how scores of African Americans and other people of color feel at this very moment.

ISIS and American-on-American violence are two separate threats to the American individual, and neither can be downplayed in favor of the other. The answer to why is pretty clear. Threats to black lives in the country from its inception have always been downplayed by the silent majority and the white moderate because it’s easier for them to put their hands over their ears than to extend their hands and get involved to help stop these injustices. This is where deflections like “but what about black-on-black crime?” originate. What all of this deflection towards black-on-black crime suggests to me is that people who say this think the system is fine and not broken. I’m here to say on behalf of all people affected by this issue that the system is indeed very broken. Quite frankly, at this point, you would have to be deliberately shielding yourself from reality if you don’t at least partially see this.

To all you deflectors and ignorers, let me lay out the big difference between black-on-black crime and state-sanctioned murder of black citizens: One consists of actions by private citizens in a given area. The other consists of people who took an oath to protect and serve these same areas. I’m not helping to pay the salary of the dude down the street from me. But I am helping pay the salary of law enforcement officers to at bare minimum not kill me and the people who live in my neighborhood. I expect them to live up to the highest codes as they protect and serve. The cops don’t seem to be doing a bang-up job at this currently. Hence the protests, outrage and screaming of “black lives matter” from coast to coast and all over the world.

There is only one way to solve American-on-American violence, of both the gang and mass-shooter variety. This solution involves ending our love affair with guns. It involves getting people to realize that a vessel whose sole use is to kill should not be in the possession of every American just because they want one and “muh 2nd amendment rights!” Since this is a trans-generational issue, it makes sense to focus on the more immediate threat, which for “ordinary Americans” is ISIS. The thinking is similar with “black-on-black crime” and police brutality. The causes of black-on-black crime are multi-faceted and will have to include a seachange in the thinking of people who have true influence over our elected officials.

We can control the actions of institutions and organizations more than we can the actions of individual actors. We come to the government to make a way to fix this because the problem is funded and sanctioned by government. The truth is because these communities are so deprived, focusing solely on black-on-black crime is akin to twisting a knife into the wounds of these communities. How can you further take away from these communities the resources they need to be successful, and then turn around and admonish these communities for not being successful?

Since we know that conservative lawmakers and their constituents are notoriously slow to assist in these communities where police brutality has run rampant, our focus should be on police reform. This is, because again, police brutality and shootings of citizens by police are issues that the government has a direct stake in due to the government funding and regulating these departments with our tax dollars.

The solutions are there: Increased training, an emphasis on community policing and engagement, more departmental transparency, working body cameras on every police officer, taking control over officer-involved shootings out of the hands of internal affairs, and the list goes on. But before we can even get to these solutions, we collectively have to admit that the problem exists.

Using one facet of black pain to try to cancel out another is a surefire way to ensure that neither of those wounds ever heal.