America – Two black men executed by paid public servants 24 hours apart are now a global tragedy whose names are prefixed by a hashtag. We were told in 1970 that the revolution would not be televised. But in 2016 the revolution has been obstructed, reversed, and can be found on every phone, television, blog, and social media outlet worldwide. The revolution is here; however, we are no longer leading the way.
Waking up Wednesday morning to the trending hashtag #AltonSterling, I knew there was no need to research the tag to have an understanding of what it was about. No need to click on the graphic images, videos, or reports to know that a black man was assassinated by a white paid public servant and I knew that another mother, father, son, daughter, sister or brother’s vision of hope had been shattered.
Alton Sterling, 37, husband and father was tackled to the ground and pinned by two paid public servants. A situation that was already tamed by two adult men, took a turn for the worst when fear of black skin turned into murder. A gun citing speculation, six shots, and a last minute cry for help, lead to the termination of yet another black man without just cause, threat, or concern.
As Wednesday progressed, I held back anger and tears working in an environment where I am the only person of color. I was in an environment where Alton Sterling was not a topic because a lack of knowledge and responsibility for the daily tribulations of minorities in America. Throughout the day, my phone filled with social media notifications, text messages and emails devoted to our concern. Voicemails of weeping strong black queens in silence with small cries of “why?” and “I don’t understand.”
As I prepared for bed asking God for strength and clarity I thought about my brothers, my cousins, my uncles, and father, all black men, who I feared for. All black men who could be next. I cried for my husband, kissing him deeply, letting him know that I love him and value him before his presence is stripped from my hands by America.
“How does this not qualify as a state of emergency,” read a text message from a close friend who just heard about the second trending tag #PhilandoCastile. I had no response, no words, and no facial expressions. My eyes skimmed across articles, tweets and visuals.
I was sick.
Disgusted by America I thought how dare you?! I was enraged. It was almost as if we were being tested. As if the police force played and galloped like young children chanting, “look at what I can do!” Demanding our attention.
This is the revolution.
This is blood being sprayed on white t-shirts and last words being muffled by screams of love ones over a traffic stop. This is Philando Castile obeying a paid public servant by reaching for his license and registration as his girlfriend is recording every move. This is that same public servant shooting four times and still pointing his gun at a man he just executed in front of a 4-year-old girl and her mother.
This is 2016. This is America.
According to The Guardian, 136 African-Americans were killed by paid public servants only half way through the year. We watch national news were they use systematic headlines to convince the American people that a white man with a gun is a patriot, while a black man with a gun is a thug. This is not just about two men, but about structural racism breaking down an entire race for prime time ratings. The behavior of law enforcement is reminiscent of the 19th century minus the auctioning of bodies. Instead the selling of people is displaced with headlines and the termination of dreams, potential and humans that do not deserve to die.
What I’m asking is simple. Stop! Stop killing us. Stop using your uniforms, and our skin color to justify termination. Stop creating an environment built on oppression and fear. Stop ignoring, protecting and justifying the actions of your colleagues just because you were told to. Stop denouncing systemic racism. Stop ignoring the implicit bias that has been conditioned into your everyday thinking. Stop allowing these paid public servants walk away from murders with no conviction.
“The data shows, black folks are more vulnerable to these kinds of incidence…this is recognizing that there’s a particular burden that is being placed on a group of our fellow citizens and we should care about that, we can’t dismiss it,” said President Obama. So let’s start recognizing our humanity. Start realizing how your bias affects how you police our communities and handle our sons, fathers, brothers and uncles.
These demands aren’t new and are heavily based in an emotional response, but please understand these actions negatively affect us all. When people feel like their lives don’t matter and voices aren’t being heard we are creating a toxic scenario with all the elements for disaster. America, we are better than this.
May these Black Kings rest peacefully.