In just two days, two black men were gunned down by police officers without justification. One, Alton Sterling, was pinned down by the police who were restraining him. He was immobile and his hands were nowhere near his pockets, yet the officers shot him multiple times, killing him. The other, Philando Castile, who had a license to carry a gun, told the officer who had pulled him over for a supposedly broken tail light that he had his legal gun in his vehicle. Despite him having done nothing wrong, the police shot and killed him in front of his fiancé and young daughter who were in the car with him. These stories are becoming entirely too familiar.
What disturbs me the most about the continuous police brutality that black people in this country face today is not only that it is still happening, with little or no consequences to the perpetrators and endless demonizing of the victims, but that not everyone in this country, where we all claim to value freedom above all else, sees these killings as a problem that must be solved. There are people who would rather point out that there is violence all over the world and that, according to them, there is so much black on black crime that more black people dying shouldn’t matter so much. Violence in any country is horrendous, but who are we as Americans to use that as an excuse to ignore the atrocities that happen every day on our soil? So much for patriotism.
As for black on black crime, of course that is upsetting but it is horrible in the same way as people on people crime is. When people of any color are involved in violent crimes it is deplorable but there is a specific difference. With racially motivated violence, there is an added layer of trauma. It is not just the tragedy that violence causes that is of concern, but it is also the hatred that spurns such violence and the fear that creeps into the back of every Black-American’s mind that they could be next. This violence is even more sinister when it is at the hands of those who vow to serve and protect us but yet in the name of their blue badges, they gun down men, women and children simply because they are black. How is this not a problem that we all care about and all want to change?
I did not agree with all of President Obama’s speech today, but he took the words out of my mouth when he said, “All Americans should be deeply troubled…” It isn’t just that I would like other races and communities to help us fight for justice, especially when they are in the position of power to do so; I also wish for others to stop attacking us when we do stand up for the rights of our people or in the very least try to understand why we are so angry.
Sadly, this belief that black lives lack value isn’t the only way that black people are treated as second class citizens in this country. But it is certainly one of the most obvious ways that we are repeatedly denied the basic human rights that other Americans enjoy and still people fail to care or accuse us of “pulling the race card” or even worse say that these black murder victims deserved to die.
This past Monday was the Fourth of July and a friend reminded me that Juneteenth is the only independence day black people should be celebrating, so I had to reflect on this. Back in the days of Frederick Douglass many black people did refuse to celebrate July 4th. Why should they have celebrated it? They were not free even after British colonization ended and the United States of America was born. I think it’s safe to say that today, we are still not free.
This post wasn’t supposed to be on a topic so serious in nature since I plan on mixing it up a bit with my blog but although my heart feels like it’s in a chokehold and I could barely find the words, I needed to find them today. There will be many think pieces, as there are every time a black person is senselessly murdered by the police. But as much as this entire country needs some kind of explanation for this ongoing horror that is the black person’s existence in America, some kind of understanding, some hope, some solace, we all need a call to action. I hope that I can be a part of that action and that one day we won’t need any more think pieces on why police keep killing our brothers and sisters and why this country that calls itself free doesn’t seem to give two shits about our freedom.