Enough is Enough
This morning as I scrolled through trending topics on Facebook, I saw a name attached to a hashtag. Silently I said to myself, “Oh no. Not another one.” For it seems that anytime a person dies in a violent act, their name includes a hashtag. And now, two days in a row, I’ve seen two names with hashtags, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, both black men shot to death by police officers.
Normally, on this blog, I avoid writing about politics, race, and religion. It’s not that I don’t hold an opinion. I do. In fact, I state my opinion clearly on social media through comments on posts to sharing relevant information on Facebook and Twitter. But, as a rule, I try not to bring those topics to my blog. Mainly because I hate confrontation and fighting. I know these topics bring out trolls who make my blood pressure rise.
The events of the last two days leave me needing to say something. It feels like sharing someone else’s words, no matter how eloquent and better worded than mine, is no longer enough. I won’t be silent any longer.
I want to make myself clear. I like the police. I love the services they provide, the sacrifices they make, and respect that they have a job to do. In fact, criminal justice fascinates me. Heck, one of my favorite shows is The First 48, and I would geek out if I met any of the homicide detectives featured on that program. (Just ask my husband.) And, I believe that the vast majority of police officers do their jobs to serve and protect to the best of their ability (and despite any biases they have). In my opinion, it is only a small number of cops who are crooked, unfit for their job, and racist.
That said, I am horrified by the death of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Horrified! What I saw on the video of Alton Sterling was an execution. It wasn’t a cop defending his life. It was a cop who decided to kill Alton because he couldn’t control him. Never mind that the other officer was straddling Alton and pinning his arms down.
Now I’ve seen comments from people trying to justify what the police did. They point out that Mr. Sterling was resisting arrest. To those people, you are right. He did resist. He shouldn’t have resisted. As citizens, we should respond to a police officer’s request and not fight. BUT, and this is the important part, resisting arrest does not justify LETHAL force. And while Alton did have a firearm, it was in his pocket. It was not in his hand. The video shows that, too.
What pisses me off the most, in all of this, are all the people, media included, pointing to Alton Sterling ‘s rap sheet. His rap sheet had nothing to do with the incident. Absolutely nothing, unless the cops were on a warrant call. (They weren’t.) But the police did not know his record when they confronted him. Besides, what does that have to do with a police officer shooting him in the chest at point-blank range?
Then we have the case of Philando Castile. There is no video showing the incident as it happened. Honestly, I am not sure what really occurred. All we have are the words of his fiancé, Diamond Reynolds. If her story is true, then I am utterly horrified.
Unlike Alton Sterling, Philando did not resist. He did not have a criminal record. He was a law-abiding citizen pulled over for a broken tail light. When the police approached him and asked for his driver’s license, he told them that he held a conceal carry permit and had a gun in his po. Apparently, he did not move his hands away from his pockets fast enough for the police officer. Philando was shot four times. Why? Was it racism? Was it fear? Was it both?
I don’t know why these incidents happened. I wish I knew for sure, but I can’t help but think that racism was the cause. And, I’m sad. I’m sad for the families of these men. I’m sad for every person who is now afraid that they too might be shot after a traffic stop. I’m sickened by those who will try to defend the police who committed these atrocious acts.
Enough is enough. We need to do more. We need to recognize that the color of our skin determines how we are treated; that racism has never gone away. We can’t ignore that fact. We need to embrace it to learn from it. We need to acknowledge it so we can move forward as a people and make the world a better place.