Have we seriously accepted that this is the reality we now live in?
Michael Brown. Trayvon Martin. Eric Garner. Tamir Rice.
These people have several things in common: they’re all Black men who were murdered by police and have had no justice.
In each of these cases either no charges were filed, or the police were found innocent of the crimes that they’d obviously committed. Since Trayvon Martin’s infamous murder by George Zimmerman, those of us privileged enough not to have had to grow up with the everyday reality of the Trayvon Martins of the world have become aware of the atrocities police are allowed to commit in the name of (terrified, bigoted, privileged) justice.
Through 2014 and 2015 the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag trended on social media. We went to protests, held up signs and blocked traffic in objection to the treatment of people of color deemed too unimportant to warrant even a feint at actual justice. Who do you turn to for legal remedies when it’s the police who are murdering your community?
This week added two more names to the list of 136 black people killed by police in 2016 so far. Alton Sterling was murdered by Baton Rouge police officers. Video taken by bystanders shows that he was restrained and cooperating. The camera then jumps as shots ring out. Sterling was shot multiple times in the back and chest. All video surveillance of the area has been confiscated by the police, and mysteriously their body cams didn’t seem to be working that day.
Alton Sterling was guilty of selling music outside of a shop with the permission of the shop owner.
A Minnesota cop murdered Philando Castile after pulling him over to inform him about a broken tail light. For some reason, the officer then ordered the passengers and driver of the car to raise their hands up. The driver informed the officer that he had a gun on him as well as a license to carry. That’s when this police officer decided to murder Castile. His four year-old daughter was in the back seat. His fiancé live-streamed the murder.
If you know people involved in social justice, you may have seen some retweets or shared news posts about this. You may have seen the video of Barak Obama speaking out about the tragedy that’s part of a pattern of increasing racial tensions in the US, the same racial tensions that led to the Blue Lives Matter law in Louisiana passing, a mockery of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
But no longer do you see the stream of support that we saw for Trayvon Martin. Gone is the shock we had for Eric Gardner. We’ve become so accustomed to cops killing citizens of color that we just numbly shake our heads and change the channel. We accept that this is the reality we live in. At most we may share a post or have a watercooler conversation at work about what a shame it is, all this murder.
But we don’t talk about how it’s racially motivated. We don’t talk about how police mysteriously always get away with these murders. We don’t talk about how police should be held to a higher moral standard, not given more leeway to kill at will because of their uniforms.
Every single one of these murders is a tragedy. Any number of them could have been prevented if police were aware that there are consequences to their actions when they commit a crime. But they have none. All they have is a judicial history that proves that they can, in fact, get away with murder. And every single one of us who participates in this reality, who changes the channel because we’d rather not look at these sad things anymore, who decides that police getting away with murder is an acceptable norm, is a part of that system.
Comment: What’s your reaction to the recent police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile?