Why Millennials Can’t Have Nice Things Pt. 2: Black/Brown Bodies are STILL not Safe
Originally this story was published to reflect on the loss of Alton Sterling. A day later, I have to edit this to include the loss of Philando Castile in Minnesota, whose slaughter is even more shocking because he was complying with the officer when he was murdered.
There are so many reasons why Millennials can’t have nice things. Two more reasons occurred in the past two days: one loss in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and the other in Falcon Heights, Minnesota.
The first was Alton Sterling. He was a 37 year old black man. The second was Philando Castile. He was a 32 year old black man. Both were executed by police officers who are now on administrative leave. Popular opinion would establish that their names matter. I don’t care what their names are. With Sterling, the officers’ body cameras magically fell off, during the altercation. By the grace of God, there were bystanders who thought to record the exchange between the two Baton Rouge Officers and Sterling. In addition, the owner of the store recorded the incident. With Castile, the officer pulled the car over for a routine stop and asked Castile for his identification upon which Castile told the officer that he was licensed to carry and had his firearm with him. Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, used Facebook Live to recount the aftermath of her boyfriend being slaughtered with her child in the car.
Sterling was said to be selling CDs outside of a convenience store before he was execute by the officers. Now before anyone starts to discuss the character of Sterling, you can sit down. Louisiana is an open carry state and in one of the articles I read it stated that Sterling had a gun on his person. However, the owner of the convenience store stated that Sterling wasn’t holding the gun or reaching for his pockets before being executed (1). It’s also been reported that the officers tased Sterling before he was tackled to the ground, but the taser was not enough to bring him down (2).
Castile was sitting in the car, vulnerable waiting for instruction from the officer. The officer stated that the car was pulled over a broken tail light which qualifies this as a routine traffic stop. “[Sir or ma’am], are you aware that your [left or right] tail light is out?” I’m not sure how the conversation went, but I do know I will never unhear the chilling sound of Reynolds’ daughter telling her mother “It’s okay, I’m right here with you”… Read about it here (3). In short, Castile was asked to provide identification. Castile let the officer know he was licensed to carry and had his firearm on him, but that he was complying with the officers request for identification. He reached, for what I will assume was, his identification when the officer fired shots into the car. *queue Facebook Live* There are plenty of resources to provide context. I encourage you to explore them.
Last time I checked, it was unacceptable to take a life unjustly. After I checked this last incident, I have to clarify. We’re in America. Even when black citizens follow the law, there are bodies that continue to pile up. There is still a list full of fallen black and brown bodies whose lives were unnecessarily taken. Around the country, vast amounts of patriotic persons satisfied their compulsions to celebrate the independence of America. Again to reiterate, whose freedom was really celebrated? Time and time again persons of color are reminded that their lives do not matter. Names upon names are shared of those who are no longer with us as if it is a normality for individuals to die at the hands of blue lives. Stop another second. If you tell me that bluelivesmatter, you can also sit down. This arena is not for you to counter, with your declaration of a hall pass for officers. Miss me with that and again, sit down.
As a cis-het woman of color in America, I am in constant fear for the lives of my husband, my father, and my brother. All of these men are black men. I am in constant fear for myself wondering if today or tomorrow I will become the next hashtag and unwilling martyr for the blacklivesmatter movement. I think it goes without saying if that’s the way I’m called home then God be the strength and refuge for those who love me. However, it’s not enough that there are persons who hate me just because of my skin color. It isn’t enough that, as a black woman, I am the least thought of and the most outspoken. Reflecting on the words of Jesse Williams, I am compelled to highlight that my magic does not negate the reality of my being. Alton Sterling was a real person whose magic was ferociously extinguished because someone thought he was less than. Regardless of if he was doing anything criminal, he should not have been executed by two officers in Baton Rouge. Philando Castile was a real person who was also ferociously extinguished because someone thought he was less than. This time across the country in Falcon Heights. Let me be clear. Castile’s death was not an honest mistake.
My primary issue with the first atrocity stems from the previously mentioned fact that the body cameras of the officers fell off. How Sway? Am I to assume that body cameras just magically fall off when times get rough? I don’t buy it. I am physically, mentally, and emotionally not catching what you are throwing. How are the cameras not fastened onto the uniforms of officers? What does it mean for events of callousness to go unseen due to a wardrobe malfunction? There is no such thing. To have them merely fall off is an act of carelessness if they are a required feature of standard uniform. What is the point of having cameras if they can fall off?
With the second atrocity, my primary issue is the inherent fear of black and brown skin that society continues to display. Let me explain. It was brought to my attention the officer who voraciously found the compulsion to slaughter Castile was not white. It is not a black vs. white issue. This is a fear of black and brown skin issue. Black mothers and fathers implore their children to comply with the requests of any officer they may encounter. Here we have a man who disclosed that he was licensed to carry, who then reached for his identification and was then killed for what is safe to assume his identification. What was he supposed to do after disclosing he had a concealed weapon?
Stop. Wait a minute. Hold the phones! Where is the NRA? Where is the uproar that a citizen who had a concealed carry permit has been murdered by another citizen? No where to be found? Hmm… Okay. Just checking to make sure I was correct in identifying that.
Here I am blessed to be living and breathing, left with lingering distress after watching the video of Alton Sterling taking his last breath. Again, blessed to be living and breathing as I struggle to comprehend the fact that Philando Castile was within his right to be a licensed law-abiding citizen carrying a concealed weapon to then be executed. Repulsive. Deplorable. Shameful. Excruciating. This is not my first rodeo. There have been heartbreaking videos of life lost that I have watched. Here I am, acknowledging the raw feeling of grief as I now think of the lives effected by the loss of Alton Sterling, and now Philando Castile. Children who now have to experience the loss of a familiar loving face. Pain so prevalent, it stretches to the people who bought their CDs from Sterling to the children Castile served everyday as a cafeteria supervisor. This loss matters because it is, yet again and again, another provoking example of what it means to be of color and breathing in this country.
I find myself overwhelmed with emotions thinking of what it means to be black in America. I no longer have the carefree pleasure of bliss I once had when I was ignorant in recognizing we live in a somber racialized society. I no longer seek to be blind or unwilling to comprehend. I no longer attempt to justify or rationalize the hatred of others. I no longer crave the pounding comprehension of why these senseless acts continue to happen. Racial battle fatigue is real and I’m not here for it anymore.
Black women are resilient. Black women have fought and voiced the opinions of the unheard for decades. To Diamond Reynolds, who courageously thought to share what she encountered while her boyfriend was literally dying, I applaud you for being an example of poised black resilience. I am truly sorry for your loss.
I’ve decided to begin my time on Medium with a series about something that is near and dear to my heart: My people. Which people you ask? Well as a cishet black Christian woman in America, I found it quite the time to talk about my generation.