I’m embarrassed to admit it, but when news broke of Alton Sterling being shot and killed by police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on Tuesday, I thought “Ugh, those damn cops.” …and I moved on. It was just another story, another failing, another embarrassing blight on America’s already horribly blotted history. There was a scratch, an itch of irritance that this keeps happening. But then I moved easily along, scrolling past enraged tweets to like photos from Taylor Swift’s Fourth of July or that new Buzzfeed video about dog owners.
It was all just so horrifyingly normal.
And then today I realize they’re not still talking about Alton Sterling; they’re talking about another police shooting, this one of Philando Castile in St. Paul, Minnesota, the aftermath of which was live-streamed by his fiancee fearing for her life and the version of events the police might tell.
There are beautiful testaments to who these men were, desperate clamorings that they were good men doing nothing wrong. But I don’t want to talk about that here because it shouldn’t matter. Whether these men had done or were doing anything illegal (which they were not) doesn’t matter. They were shot when they shouldn’t have been by men in blue who seem far too willing to put a bullet into the flesh of a living, breathing human they saw as disposable. And that’s wrong. Yet, you look at the police shootings over the last two years and you see everyone—police, politicians, people—telling us it is right. It is justifiable. It is what we pay our men in blue to do.
Like mass shootings and college rapes, bad stuff keeps happening and we keep talking about it (or not talking about it) and then we keep forgetting about it. Tragedies eventually take a backseat, a sharp blip that simmers and quiets until the next event—always disarmingly similar—punctures our cheery bravado again.
We’re so willing to let this be our norm. We’re so uniquely unfazed by it, these horrors that litter our news feeds. People make it about them. If it’s #YesAllWomen, it’s suddenly #NotAllMen. If it’s a call for more gun control, it’s a sudden push for that good ole second amendment. We use these tragedies to push our own narrative, our own agendas. Trump tweets that, the NRA says this, a rapist’s father says that. We talk around these tragedies until we don’t talk about them anymore.
We are broken if we can’t see something is wrong here. Where are the gun activists now? The #AllLivesMatter apologists? The #BlueLivesMatter justifiers? It’s embarrassing that this is old hat now. But in a country where Donald Trump, with his hateful, racist, bigoted talk, is this close to the presidency, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. With our eagerness to point out rap sheets, print out mug shots, to drag the names of the dead through the mud to try and justify a human being’s death by those paid to protect them, I cannot be surprised to see video of a man’s execution and the live stream of a man bleeding out and still wonder if they’ll ever actually find justice.
I can’t believe we’re this monstrous, this scared, this ignorant, this willing to not care. Black people are being publicly executed by trigger-happy, white cops and the truly tragic thing is we’ve just accepted it. We sit on our wall of white privilege and take a fine-tooth comb to the history of these men, women, and children and decide from our pedestal that they must have deserved it.
But what man deserves to be shot by the men he’s trusting to protect him? What child should ever see a man be murdered by the officers he’s supposed to believe are the good guys? What woman should have to worry about still calling the man with a gun to her head “sir” after watching him kill her boyfriend?
And it’s hard to find the words. I sometimes think it’s not my fight. Who could possibly want to hear my hot take on something I have no personal experience with? But I’m not here to tell people what to feel. I can’t begin to imagine what the mothers, the children, the loved ones of Alton and Philando are going through. But I’m tired of sitting back and letting people debate over the bodies of these human beings.
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
I’ve had an easy life, I know. My skin color, my privilege, my family history in a country that always favored my “type” of people—it’s made it easy. I know my voice can’t carry the rage of those who’ve struggled with this their whole lives, entire generations. I know I can’t begin to understand the struggle to be relevant, to be equal in a country built on the very backs of a people history tries again and again to smother. I know it’s not me in danger; it’s not my life being dissected to excuse the inexcusable; it’s not my family, my brothers, my children being shot and killed on the streets of a nation touting life, liberty, and happiness.
But I also know I can’t be quiet.
Things will get better, we say. Things are so much better, we say.
But tell that to Alton. To Philando. To their families. To their people. It’s simply not true. And this shouldn’t be acceptable.
I don’t care if Alton had a gun on him. I don’t care if that
bitch cop that shot Philando thought he was going for a gun–the gun he was legally carrying. I care that this keeps happening. That an entire people have to deal with the fear and the frustration of being ignored and violently silenced. Black lives matter and we should all, ALL rage to prove it.
Because if this isn’t it…I’m scared to see what it will take to say “enough is enough.”