Last week after the tragic death of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, I wrote a public status inviting my readers to send in their thoughts and feelings. I will be sharing these posts over the coming days. You can read my post on the subject here.
We Need To Speak Up (Guest Post)
Today, my social network feeds are full of my friends who are WOC asking those of us who are white allies to use our voices to amplify the outrage against the (latest) murder of a black man by police. His name was #AltonSterling.
This is one of those things where I feel at a loss for words. Oh, there will be many words typed in this post, but none of them adequately express what I’m feeling inside. I’m sad for the loss, heartbroken for his family and friends. I’m angry at the overt and subtle racism that plays into the tendency for too many of those who pledged to “serve and protect” to shoot first and ask questions never when they encounter a person of color, but buy fast food for white mass shooters on the way to the station.
Anger isn’t strong enough a word for the victim-blaming that inevitably follows a police killing, even when the victim was unarmed. Even when the victim hadn’t committed a crime. Hell, even when the victim HAS committed a crime, police officers are not supposed to be judge, jury, and executioner. We had a multi-million dollar manhunt for two escaped murderers here in New York, and one of them managed to be recaptured alive. He was white. And yet a black man on a sidewalk in front of a convenience store was shot to death on the ground.
#AltonSterling was not a saint. He’d had previous trouble with the law for offenses I would not offer defense for. But even that does not excuse how he was killed. They had him on the ground. He should have been arrested on suspicion of the crime they believed he had committed. He should have been arraigned, even sitting in jail right now awaiting his appointment with the judge…still alive. If he was found guilty of a crime, he would have been punished, but surely not with the death penalty. And certainly not by immediate firing squad without a trial by jury of his peers.
#AltonSterling was not wielding a gun when he was shot to death. Officers removed a gun from his pocket after they had killed him. And he couldn’t have been reaching for the gun when they shot him, because they had him physically restrained. Why did they shoot him? They had him physically restrained on the ground, so he was no threat to them anymore, if he ever was, or if they had perceived him to be.
His life meant nothing to them. That offends me as a human being. It should offend everyone.
We need to hold law enforcement accountable for their actions, from wrongful search all the way up to wrongful use of lethal force.
We need to speak up and speak out against social injustice.
We need to raise our children to respect their fellow human beings regardless of their differences.
We need to show, in word and in deed, that we respect human life and human dignity in all of its variety – without forgetting that there is no tolerance paradox; we need not be tolerant of intolerance, lest we make the whole concept meaningless.