‘Stay Woke’

If you follow me on Twitter and checked your timeline this morning you may have noticed a number of retweets from me regarding the death of another black man — Alton Sterling.

I happened to be on the treadmill in the gym when I came across the story myself. I didn’t want to watch the video but I did, and it upset me. So I wanted everyone that follows me to know what had happened, particularly because I feel some are so far removed from these incidents that they never even find out when they occur, or worse, they do but it doesn’t really bother them.

From what has been reported so far, it seems he was standing in front of a store selling CDs. He wasn’t armed, he didn’t resist arrest (he was taken down so quickly he didn’t really get a chance to), and then he was shot 5 times whilst pinned to the ground. The two policemen who shot him both claim that at the time the incident took place their body cams fell off and so didn’t capture what happened (*rolls eyes*).

I watched a documentary recently called OJ: Made in America. If you haven’t seen it check it out, it’s a real eye-opener. The first episode is almost exclusively dedicated to charting his successful football career. I feel this is deliberately done to show how loved and embraced OJ was within the mostly white community in which he lived, and also show the extent of his fall from grace. The documentary also gives an insight into what the rest of black America were experiencing at the time: police brutality and racism.

Remember Rodney King? That happened in 1991. Just 13 days after the Rodney King incident, a 15-year-old black girl named Latasha Harlins was shot in the back of the head in a grocery store. The Korean woman named Soon Ja Du, thought she was attempting to steal orange juice, when in fact Latasha had money in her hand and brought both the orange juice and the money to the counter to pay. After a short scuffle, the woman took out a handgun from under the counter as Latasha was walking away, shooting her in the back of the head and killing her instantly.

What do you think happened to Soon Ja Du? You’d think that she would be found guilty of 1st degree murder and be sentenced to life without parole right? Wrong. She was found guilty of the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter and given a $500 dollar fine, put on 5 years probation, and asked to carry out 400 hours of community service. That is the value the system puts on black life, this is what angers and frustrates black people — that they can be murdered in cold blood and that it won’t mean a thing. This is why black people say ‘Black Lives Matter’, we want it to matter. We want our lives to be given the same value as everyone else.

Fast forward 4 years later to 1995, the beginning of the OJ trial. According to one of the jurors who appeared on the documentary, many of the jury on the case (most of whom were black) gave a not-guilty verdict as ‘payback’ for what happened to Rodney King. It is a shocking admission, and i’m surprised no action has been taken against them for failing to carry out their judicial duties properly. But it just shows the extent of the hurt black people in America feel at the way they have been treated through the years.

Don’t be surprised if rioting occurs in Baton Rouge, the city where Alton was murdered. If it doesn’t happen in the next few days it may happen if and when the policemen are acquitted. You might be wondering why people would riot and loot their own community? After all, this is where they live, these are their streets and their local stores, why would they burning them down? It might not make sense to you, but even though I have never rioted or looted myself, I can understand why people do. Have you ever been so angry and frustrated that you wanted to smash a glass or throw your phone at the TV? That’s your phone and your TV that you’d be smashing, but you’re so worked up that you don’t care. Imagine that anger and frustration multiplied by a thousand. That’s how black people in America have felt for decades. Each time they see a black person killed by the police that hurt, anger, and frustration deepens. There were riots in LA shortly after the Rodney King and Latasha Harlins incidents, and there have been many since.

Martin Luther King once said “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. This couldn’t be more true right now. You don’t have to be black or living in America to care about what is happening there. These are people being murdered. They are sons, fathers, and brothers. If these incidents aren’t familiar to you, please take some time to look them up. As some would put it, “stay woke”. RIP Alton Sterling.