There’s a black man. Police confront him. Police kill him, and we watch the video. There’s an investigation, protests and calls for justice. A community grieves, and we all hit repeat.
Alton Sterling, repeat. Philando Castile, repeat. Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Willie Tillman, David Joseph, repeat, repeat, repeat.
I’m tired, y’all. I’m effing tired. I’m tired of hearing about these families who have lost fathers and sons, listening to simple platitudes about thoughts and prayers, or the pretzel-like explanations for how it’s all the dead guy’s fault.
And then nothing changes.
I welled up watching Sterling’s 15-year-old son break down and wail “I want daddy” at a news conference. Sterling was killed Tuesday while selling CDs and DVDs outside a store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The police say they were responding to a report of an armed man.
The tears spilled down my cheeks as I watched the video of Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond “Lavish” Reynolds, begging, “Please officer don’t tell me that you just did this to him. You shot four bullets into him, sir.” Meanwhile, Castile is slumped over, bleeding and with his arm at a terrible angle. These killings have to stop.
After watching the video of Sterling, one of my black high school friends role-played with his sons, ages 8 and 12, on how to respond if they are ever confronted by a police officer. He even had them lie down and simulate being handcuffed. Another friend talked about how she hated that she was scared her husband, a hospital administrator, or her 16-year old son could someday be gunned down by a police officer.
This morning I told my husband, “I’m glad we now live in a country where I don’t have to worry about our sons getting killed by the police.” I love America, but damn, these killings and the muted effort to change is gut-wrenching.
It feels like the country that my ancestors helped to build with blood, sweat and tears, the place that I call home and miss terribly now that I live in Norway, just doesn’t care about me or those who look like me. Me and my brothers are all criminals, mere statistics or people waiting to become a statistic.
Fixing this epidemic feels like such an insidious behemoth, but we can’t keep going like this.
It’s easy to grow numb to the drumbeat of bodies piling in the streets from guns, drugs and other societal ills. Believe me, I get it. I’d rather scroll through the images of Paris’ fashion week than see Castile’s blood drench his plain white tee.
But I can’t. That would be just like hitting repeat.
What can I do?
First, I won’t pretend to have the answers, but through the magic of the interwebs you can find some very pertinent and well-researched information. One that I especially liked was a report from the Center for Popular Democracy and Policy Link. The two non-profit advocacy groups developed 15 possible solutions to curb police brutality. The ideas include increased police training and funding, treating drug addicts and the mentally ill instead of incarcerating them, and my personal favorite: Make the policy makers see their own racism.
Look, let’s be honest. We all have -isms, we’re not proud of them because we know it’s wrong to judge people based on looks, money or education, but it happens, and refusing to recognize the elephant in the room helps no one.
Check out the link to the report for how to push for such changes.
I care, but I don’t have any free time
We are all busy people. Work, school, kids, friends, life, and there are only 24 hours in a day. However, you make time for what you feel is important. Are you all caught up on what’s going on with Olivia Pope? Have you binge-watched “Orange Is The New Black” or something else on Netflix? How about my “Game of Thrones” people? Yeah, so it’s all a matter of priorities.
You gotta do what works for you, but please, don’t just sit there and hit repeat.
A version of this first appeared at Rebellious Magazine for Women.