I broke my phone by answering a FaceTime in the shower. Yeah I know, judge me. In my defense, I thought it was a friend calling to talk about Chance’s Coloring Book. Accordingly, this summer I have logged a disturbing amount of hours on my laptop. I don’t like to call it by it’s official name, the Macbook Pro 13" with Retina display, because it reminds me that it’s not much more than a battery powered piece of plastic. Just a material possession. My apologies, Tim Cook! But on the flip side, this laptop is in competition for the top spot on the list of things that bring me actual joy. For those that might say, “Hey! You mean the internet not your laptop!”, you are wrong. I spend time doing tons of wifi independent activity. But anyway, when I am on the internet, among the too many tabs I have open is Twitter.
Twitter was cool when I got on it like 6 years ago. But that’s all it was. You could say hashtag culture was in it’s adolescent stage at the time. Facebook was all the rage, but I never really rode that wave. I don’t know when it was, but when Twitter became the world’s go-to social media outlet, I was right there for it.
For years I tried to Facebook Twitter. (Use Facebook as a verb and it works.) You know what I mean, like, “just got home from school…so boring!!”. You live and learn. Then I went through the ‘thirsty for favorites phase’. Kind of like a little less savage version of those Worldstar accounts. Not sure how long that lasted. I also don’t know when I transitioned to my current Twitter persona. I am now the guy on Twitter with the blank name, the ever-changing header/avi, and the constant RTs. I would say my Twitter is ‘pro-black’, and maybe even polarizing. I am either tweeting about music (majority hip-hop), or the black struggle. I seem to have surrounded myself with accounts that match (or made?) my ideals and coincidentally I see a lot of outrage on my timeline. Sometimes I characterize myself as the worst therapist ever. I say this because my timeline is often saturated by tweets of anguish that I usually don’t respond to. Maybe it’s because I have enough anguish of my own.
At about 8 pm tonight, I started seeing tweets about an incident in Baton Rouge where a black man named #AltonSterling had been killed outside a store where he usually sells CDs. His killers were the boys in blue. Far from the first time I had dealt with news like this, I was trying to keep an open mind about the situation. This is the point where I wish the storm raging outside would have knocked out my internet indefinitely. I would have been lucky. But I have deduced that when luck sees an individual of my complexion, it must cross to the other side of the street.
Spurred on by curiosity and Twitter’s auto refresh feature, I searched for more information. A video with the hashtag #AltonSterling appeared. I pressed play. I watched as two officers brought this 37-year-old father to the ground by force. I continued watching, grimly wondering if the video would show his actual death. The officers had Alton on the ground, and one officer spontaneously screamed that he had a gun. I saw nothing of the sort, but the vantage point in the video was poor. The three seemed to be momentarily frozen in place, and before I knew it, one officer drew his gun and buried multiple shots into Alton’s torso.
I am not going to attempt to describe my emotions during or after watching this mans harrowing extrajudicial murder. I can only say it was a combination of numbness and heartache, if that even makes sense. I know I am not the only one.
I tried to bait people into a Twitter fight out of spite. When that didn’t work, I tried to distract myself with various things on the internet. I would liken it to when you watch a scary movie and then watch cartoons after. But the scariest movies make you think it can happen to you. I know that this very well could, and that made the fear unshakeable. This movie has too many sequels, and I have seen my fair share. I had no recourse. Alton has no life. Alton will get no justice. These thoughts projected through my head like a stock ticker. I only knew that I was upset because this was such an old story. But I also knew this story was reality for an unspeakable amount of black lives, black people. This man is DEAD. His lifeline was so viciously cut short. The livelihood of his family and friends is polluted. I hope I don’t see his transgressions spelled out and critiqued by the white masses in an effort to justify his murder. I hope the officers involved are made into an example. An example that won’t reinforce the sentiment that black lives do not matter. I hope his family gets a generous settlement, as if that could make it all okay. I hope a lot of things. #AltonSterling shouldn’t be trending.
P.S. You know when you say something a thousand times and it turns to gibberish in your head? I want you to say black lives matter that many times and then keep doing it. Say it until it means something to you. Say it until it resonates. Say it until we don’t have to anymore.
Campaign Zero is a comprehensive platform of policy solutions to end police violence in America.www.joincampaignzero.org