Yet again… newspapers’ front pages, television news headlines, and social media platforms scream loudly about the death of another black man, killed by the bullets of a police officer.
Yesterday, yet again…by eyewitness accounts, Alton Sterling, from Baton Rouge, La., was not resisting arrest; nor was he attempting to pull a weapon.
Yet again…another camera as a reliable witness captures a police officer upholstering his gun…dispatching and extinguishing…with bullets point-blank to the head…again, the life of yet another black man.
Yesterday, how would I know that TODAY in the span of less than 24 hours, Philando Castile’s name, likeness, and dying face would be emblazoned in our psyches, as his girlfriend and her young daughter witnessed his horrifying death at the hands of a Falcon Heights, MN. police officer?
Yet again, the camera is a reliable witness.
At what point does our nation COLLECTIVELY stand up and say, “No more?!”
At what point do our leaders acknowledge that this is a disproportionate assault on the black community…on black men?
At what point do black lives REALLY matter to those in law enforcement?
The vast majority of law enforcement professionals are doing their jobs, protecting and serving people while they also must face significant dangers. They do so every day.
The vast majority of citizens respect, supports, and relies on law enforcement.
But there are those police officers who have NO RIGHT to the uniform because their callousness at human life—BLACK human life—has become all-too-easily explained away by the words, “He had a gun; I feared for my life.”
To compound that “fallback excuse,” there’s the quick rush to judgment by the court of public opinion when the victim has a prior criminal record.
Having a record should not mean that you should be shot in cold blood.
Having a record should not mean that you can’t sell music in front of a store where the owner gives you permission to do so.
And, having a record should not mean that you continue paying the price once you have paid your debt to society.
Philando Castile had no record, held a job for 12 years as a responsible adult, had a permit to carry a weapon, yet he was shot dead, even as he complied with a request to produce identification.
In its simplicity, it is a call for the nation to speak out against the injustice of these killings that more often than not are beyond questionable. It is a call to acknowledge that a problem exists, and a call to find ways to address and root out the clear prejudices.
This nation must acknowledge the unjust, racist, ‘police-officer-as-executioner’ mentality that so many have come to believe—not accept—because black folks are not accepting of it…as the status quo.
Until this occurs, we will see more such killings, more police officers who act without discretion, more black men dying at their hands, and more families left without a husband…brother…father…son.
Yes. ALL lives matter in the human race, but if black lives don’t matter to the human race because society is still so quick to judge a black person based solely on skin color, then this vicious cycle will continue, and we will be here…yet again.
Medgar Evers was assassinated in 1963 fighting for equality because ALL lives mattered.
As much as he fought for equal rights for everyone, what drove him was the inescapable fact that black lives DID matter, and that a light needed to be shined on the ugliness that permeated the times of the day, and which today threaten—if this nation allows it—to become the rule again rather than the exception.
That was the foundation for his work, his life, and ultimately, for his and our family’s greatest sacrifice.
He fought for the simple dignity of walking and living the life of a black man who asked first and foremost to be recognized as such…no different than what we ask today.
Medgar Evers would agree that black lives STILL, and DO matter…53 years later.
May the families of Alton Sterling, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Rekia Boyd, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, Laquan McDonald, Walter Scott, John Crawford, and today, Philando Castile—those whose deaths actually made headlines—and those that remain nameless and anonymous find peace and comfort. The Medgar Evers family and MMEI send heartfelt prayers of healing to the families of these senseless and tragic acts of violence.
- Reena Evers-Everette