Another day, another black man gunned down by police for no good reason. This isn’t right. This shouldn’t be normal.
32-year-old Philando Castile was shot to death yesterday during a traffic stop over a broken taillight. Castile had a gun, which he was licensed to carry, and informed the officer of this fact before reaching for his wallet to provide his identification, as we are all expected to do during traffic stops. Castile was apparently told to stop moving, at which point he began to raise his arms in deference to the officer–who then opened fire, shooting Castile four times and keeping a gun aimed at him while he bled to death.
In the vehicle was his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her young daughter. Perhaps the only reason we know of this shooting–or at least know of it so soon after the fact–is that Ms. Reynolds had the wherewithal to broadcast the immediate aftermath of Castile’s shooting, live on Facebook. The video is graphic and, to put it mildly, difficult to watch. This is a human being’s violent, lingering death, caught on video for all the world to see, broadcast in real-time as it happened.
Recording the actions of police isn’t stopping this. They are caught on video, over and over, killing unarmed or defenseless people of color. Police are killing people for selling CDs, for having burned out lights in their vehicles, and the list goes on and on and on. And it’s because black men–it’s usually black men–aren’t really being killed for such petty crimes. Their lives are being taken by the same system that seeks to deny and deprive their dignity and even their lives in order to uphold white privilege and white supremacy.
I am a white man. I do not know what it is like to live with such fear, to have this constant knowledge that powerful forces may choose to take your life for little reason or no reason at all. I have no inkling and I cannot pretend to. But that’s no excuse for keeping quiet. I cannot keep quiet. This is done with my tax dollars, on my behalf, and it must be said loud and clear: I do not want this, I do not ask for this, and this must stop.
But it can’t just be me. It must be all people of good conscience, and all white people especially, because we are the beneficiaries of this violence. We can’t give in to complacency, to the paralysis of despair, or to hopeless cynicism.
I will finish out this post with some words and links that I think are valuable at a time like this. Please read and consider, if you will.
This won’t end until enough people declare that we’ve had enough, and those words must be backed by actions: protest, activism, organization, political action. Standing on the sidelines and hoping things will somehow get better is not enough. It never will be.