I woke up this morning to the news that another Black man was killed by Baton Rouge police officers Blaine Salamoni and Howie Lake. My social media newsfeeds were flooded by commentary on the shooting. Some sharing the emotionally charged video and others opting out of watching yet another Black man murdered in cold blood. People are outraged and rightfully so. It is becoming rather tiresome seeing these videos, but not watching doesn’t change a thing. Not doing anything doesn’t change a thing either. And yet here we are, again, a community grappling with what steps to take to stop these incidents from occurring; another body, another murder, another day of hashtags and another name to add to the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
It didn’t take long for the news sites to dig into Alton Sterling’s past, because of course, a criminal past makes these police shootings more acceptable. Except, that the officers weren’t aware of Sterling’s alleged criminal past when they killed him. Some news outlets are reporting that Sterling had a gun on him. Officers involved in these types of killings always use the “he had a gun” defense to justify their actions even when it has been proven that the victim was unarmed. I don’t know if Alton Sterling indeed had a gun. I don’t know if he had a criminal past (not that it matters). I don’t know if he indeed posed a threat to the officers, but officers are trained to handle these situations. They are trained to diffuse and de-escalate if and when possible. Too many of them are getting it wrong and not being held accountable and that’s why people are enraged, angry and tired.
I know I am. I’m tired of waking up in the morning to stories of another man being senselessly murdered. I’m tired of hearing about the victim’s criminal past as an excuse for being gunned down — as if past transgressions are reasons to be killed. I’m tired of watching the news and being thankful I have daughters. Though that doesn’t mean much when you consider Sandra Bland, Rekia Boyd, Tenisha Anderson and the many other killed women of color who don’t make the news. The ones who are disposable, terrorized on their own streets, by the very people sworn to protect them.
I am not here criticizing the officers who get it right, the ones who do their job, the ones who serve their communities the way they’re supposed to — with respect and value for human life, for all lives. This is not about them. This is about the blatant disregard of our lives and the lack of accountability of those who get it wrong, the ones who abuse their power, and the ones who have documented patterns of abuse, yet are still allowed to patrol our streets. This is about the Scott Aldridges (Cleveland PD) the Daniel Willises, (Bastrop County PD, Texas), the Phil Atkinses (NYPD), the Daniel Pantaleos (NYPD), the Darren Wilsons (Ferguson PD) and the many others who get it wrong.
You’re not to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.
– Malcolm X