Two black men executed by paid public servants less than 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 to the trending hashtag #AltonSterling, I had no need to research the tag to understand what it was about. No need to click on the graphic images, videos, or reports to know that another black man had been killed 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 gun-citing speculation, six shots, and a last-minute cry for help led to the termination of yet another black man without just cause.
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As the day 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. 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, for whom I fear. 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 articles, tweets and visuals. I was sick. Disgusted by America! 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 records 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, 145 African-Americans were killed by paid public servants only half way through the year. 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 incidents. … 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 bias affects policing and the handling of our sons, fathers, brothers and uncles. These demands aren’t new and this essay is an emotional response, but these actions hurt us all. When people feel like their lives don’t matter and voices aren’t being heard we create a toxic scenario with all the elements for disaster. America, we are better than this. May these Black Kings rest peacefully
Najauna White lives in Durham.