No parent should have to deal with the senseless death of a child – but for many parents this is a reality that they must live with; and the silence from our elected leaders is deafening in most, but not all cases.
This week, I have watched as politicians have expressed ‘outrage’ over the death of Otto Warmbier. While in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Warmbier was captured on tape stealing a poster from the wall of the hotel where he was staying. He was subsequently arrested, tried and sentenced. There is no question that his sentence was extreme; but there was also no question that he had done what he was accused of.
This reaction from the media and elected officials has caused me to wonder where the outrage was in the case of Philando Castile who was shot and killed by a police officer in St. Paul Minnesota while sitting in his car with his girlfriend and her child. Much was made of the fact that Mr. Castile had a gun – but he also had a permit and his weapon was holstered when he was shot. Despite taped evidence to the contrary, a jury found the police officer not guilty of manslaughter – and also not guilty or responsible for endangering the life of a child as they shot into the back seat of the car. As The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah rightfully stated: “This story is interesting because there’s something different and that is that Philando Castile wasn’t just a man shot at a traffic stop. He was a legal gun owner whose family was in the car and who had committed no crime at all.”
Where is the outrage for the family of Charleena Lyles? Who was pregnant, with three of her four children at home and called the police to report a burglary. According to the officers’ account, shortly after they arrived, Ms. Lyles, who the police knew was mentally ill, pulled a knife. Both officers shot her.
These are just two shootings out of 460 which have occurred this year by police according to the Washington Post; even more concerning to me as a clinical social worker is the fact that mental illness played a role in a quarter of those shootings.
So I ask, where is the outrage being expressed by our elected officials for these and countless other lethal acts of violence perpetrated upon our communities? Where is the outrage, and more importantly, where is the accountability?
The words of Native American activist Delores Schilling ring true: “When the color of your skin is seen as a weapon, you will never be unarmed.”
Yes, no parent should have to deal with the senseless death of a child, and for the past few years I have felt deeply the loss of Black and Brown families here in the US whose children, spouses’, and parents’ lives were taken too soon by state sanctioned authorities.
As a society – and as a nation, we must do better, but it will take all of us breaking the silence for that to happen.