Death In Black & Blue

Death In Black & Blue
Dane La Born

Dane La Born

This last week has been one of the worst in recent memory.

Starting with the murder of Alton Sterling, followed closely on the heels by the killing of Philando Castile, followed closely by the murder of five officers during a protest, followed by the first drone kill on U.S. soil, followed by the shootings of officers all over the nation, and finally, followed by protests, during which some protesters pelted officers with rocks and fireworks, resulting in full-scale riot suppressive action from the police.

Good god, what a week.

The narrative of “black man killed by police” is not a new thing. Ever since Michael Brown was killed, Black Lives Matter has put the nation’s focus on police brutality and violence. The killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are a bit different, though, as they were armed.

Alton Sterling was killed with two officers on top of him and his hands pinned to his side. You hear an officer shout “Gun!” and then they shoot him. They shoot him laying on the ground, in the back. Alton Sterling wasn’t supposed to be armed, he was a felon, and there are laws against that. However, I’m fairly positive our police officers aren’t supposed to carry out gestapo-style executions. As has become the normal for things like this, it was captured on video, not that that’s ever made too much of a difference in the past.

Philando Castile, though, changes this narrative up as much as I think it can be changed. Castile proved what so many people in BLM have been saying for years now. That it doesn’t matter what you do. That “complying” with officers is in no way a guarantee that you’ll still be alive by the end of the encounter. Philando Castile worked as a cook at a Montessorri school. Castile memorized 500 children’s names and if they had food allergies. He made sure kids didn’t go hungry, even if that meant it came out of his pocket. Philando Castile was, by literally all accounts, a stand-up and law-abiding citizen. Philando Castile was shot dead by an officer after informing the officer that he had a concealed carry permit, and that he was removing his weapon before getting his ID out.

Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, started streaming live on Facebook moments after the officer shot her boyfriend. Castile is bleeding out next to her as she, clearly in shock and miraculously composed under the circumstances, explains to us what just happened. There was a child in the car, too, it’s worth noting. The officer fired his gun and killed Castile while a four-year-old little girl sat in the backseat. A girl who knew him as a father. She watched him bleeding out. In the video, the officer still has his gun pointed at Castile, who is barely conscious, and is screaming in a blind, terrified rage at Reynolds, who calmly reminds the officer that he had asked Castile for his license, and that Castile was complying.

That narrative has been so messed up to me since the first time I heard it. “Comply or die.” That seems to be the order of the day with the police officers in this country if you are anything other than white. And yeah, it’s definitely a skin color thing, as I can point to plentyof white folks who’ve done the same or worse things that got folks of a different skin tone killed.

Sadly, everything that has happened after Castile’s killing has overshadowed that event. First in Dallas, five officers were shot by a sniper as they tended to a peaceful protest. Other officers were shot along the sides of the road. I’ll be honest — when the five officers in Dallas were killed, I was worried we’d seen the open salvo of something much, much worse. I’m still hoping against hope that I am wrong about that.

It may be a stereotypical thing to say, but violence isn’t the answer here. Anything you have to say is lost the minute you raise your hands in retaliation. Many people keep bringing up Martin Luther King Jr., much to the chagrin of BLM members who remind them that MLK is gone and this is their movement. But they’re missing something fundamental that this generation in general just doesn’t seem to get. There is a need for someone like MLK. There is a need for organization. I know BLM has founders and leaders, but I can’t tell you who they are because they aren’t doing anything to let me know. They want this message out, then there needs to be a figure to get behind.

Every single time this generation has decided to fight against the powers-that-be, we fail because we are so disorganized we can’t actually tell you what we want to change, we can give you the basic ideas, but implementing them seems beyond our capacity. The same thing happened with the Occupy Movement. It was leaderless in the same way BLM seems leaderless, and ask the hippies who marched in the 60s and 70s: marches and protests only get you so far.

People keep bringing up MLK because he took action. Actual, palpable, meeting-with-the-president kind of action. Half of BLM seems to adhere to Malcolm X’s call to answer violence with violence. I can understand the knee-jerk response, but any amount of cognitive thought on that matter instantly leads to what a terrible idea it is. Because it’s not the minds walking beside you that you’re trying to change. It’s the people being pelted with rocks or arguing for the officers holding the gun on the internet. And the instant, the moment that violence comes into play, they’re done. They’re never going to hear you. In fact, to them, you just proved them right.

So stop. Stop the violence and stop the hate. Change begins with you, and as angry as I am, and as angry as so many others are, there are still so many people (Castile’s girlfriend included) who do not want this violence. That’s not what this movement is supposed to be about, and the instant it becomes that, you lose.

Categories: Commentary