This is not the typical post that I would make at EYG.
But after that last few days of racial tension and divide in our country, I feel compelled to express my thoughts and worries about what has been happening. I want to state right off that I am white, so I do not have any first hand knowledge of any of the bigotry or prejudice that African-Americans face on a daily basis. I am also not a police officer, though my lifelong best friend is one. Thankfully, he is an officer in a small town of just over 6,000 people where incidents like this are few and far between.
However, this kind of hatred and unfettered violence is possible anywhere, and that is the saddest of all statements.
This horrible week’s events started on Tuesday night, when police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana responded to a 9-1-1 call at a convenience store of a “black man brandishing a gun.” There they found 37 year-old Alton Sterling in the parking lot selling CDs. Known as the CD Man, Sterling was out front with permission of the store owner. Videos of the incident were shot by bystanders, showing the police wrestling Sterling to the ground, with two officers pinning him down. You hear someone shout “He’s got a gun” and then you hear shots fire, while Sterling was on the ground. Police were seen on video removing something from Sterling’s pocket afterwards that looked to be a gun.
There was an immediate outrage in the community and online at the treatment of Sterling. Quinyetta McMillon, the mother of one of Sterling’s children, said Wednesday,”The individuals involved in his murder took away a man with children who depended upon their daddy on a daily basis. … As this video has been shared across the world, you will see with your own eyes how he was handled unjustly and killed without regard for the lives that he helped raise.”
A CNN report indicated that the 9-1-1 call came from a homeless man who had been begging Sterling for money. Reportedly, Sterling had shown the homeless man the gun as a way to discourage him from his consistent questions.
And the week was just starting.
The next day, at a traffic stop for a busted taillight outside of St. Paul, Minnesota, Philando Castile was shot and killed inside his car while his girlfriend and her four-year old daughter were there. The was more to this story, and the world would see it live. Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, had her phone out and was live streaming the aftermath using Facebook Live.
This video was eerie and heartbreaking as Reynolds, who was at first clearly in shock, narrated the event as her boyfriend died in the seat beside her. She said that the officer had told them to put their hands in the air, that he had asked for license and registration and that the officer shot Castile as he reached for his license from his wallet. According to Reynolds, Castile had told the officer that he had a hand gun, and she had said that he had a license to carry.
The video continued dramatically as the police had her exit the car and kneel on the ground. She said that she had done nothing wrong and asked why she was being arrested. She was being detained, was the response. The phone had fallen to the ground, and all that was seen now was a shot of the sky, but sound was still recording. Someone turned it upside down and it stayed that way until the little girl, along with another police officer, picked it up. Reynolds must have been given the phone back because she finished posting the video to Facebook while in the back of a police car.
Two police shootings of African American men who seem on these videos to have been unnecessary and excessive was sure to set off race relations that always are right beneath the surface in our land. As people across the country expressed their grief and concerns over these deaths, the week was not yet over.
Thursday night in Dallas, Texas, at a peace protest of the shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, a protest that many Dallas police officers took part in, a lone suspected sniper began shooting, targeting police officers. In the end, 12 officers were shot and five were killed. There were also a few innocent protesters who were shot.
Gunman suspect Micah Xavier Johnson was killed when, after a tense standoff, the police dispatched a robot with a bomb with hopes of ending the night without any further loss of life.
Although at first, police believed that there were at least two gunmen, now they suspect that Johnson worked alone, with him being described as a “loner” who was angry about the two shootings. Hostage negotiators said that, during the standoff, Johnson had said that ‘he wanted to kill white people, especially police officers.”
At this point, I was just grateful that nothing else seemed to happen on Friday.
President Barack Obama called the attack “vicious, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement” and the President cut his trip to Europe short to return to the US. He is scheduled to go to Dallas next week.
After eight years of a presidency of the first ever African American, it is clear that the racial divide that has strangled this country is still in place. It made comments that indicated that racism was over since we elected Obama president look even more asinine than they were at the time.
There seems to be little defense of the two shootings this week. Both African American men did not appear to be doing anything that made one think that they needed to be shot. It is hard to imagine that either shooting was motivated by anything else but the racial stereotype that a black man with a gun is dangerous and violent.
However, there is also a preconceived notion that paints a wide picture that all cops are racist and out to get African Americans. Reynolds made an emotional statement to the media after she was released, indicating that the police were attempting to “assassinate” black people. She even said that her daughter had come to her and said that the police were “bad guys.”
Blanket statements simple do not work and show how much ignorance we have as a nation.
Are there police officers who are racist and who target African American people. Of course. There have been plenty of examples of this over the decades. Does that mean that every man or woman who wears the shield is a racist. Of course NOT.
Are there African American men who react with violence and who are dangerous people. Yes, of course. Does that mean that every black man is dangerous? NO!
At some point, we need to get past the hatred and the racism that has swept this nation for far too long. We need to stop thinking that just because one person of a certain group (or even several people of that said group) does something wrong, that all of “them” will do so as well. Just because the men who brought down the Twin Towers were Muslim, not all Muslims are evil terrorists. Yet, how many people in America see someone of Muslim descent and immediately think “terrorist?” Honestly, if you are on an airplane and there is a passenger with a turban, do you think that he/she is a danger to that plane?
The African American community has been targeted by some police officers. There is no doubt that that has happened. There are too many African Americans who have stories about being pulled over and detained for no apparent reason to believe otherwise. From Rodney King to Sterling Castile, there are sadly way too many cases to debate.
Yet, does this mean that every police officer is out to get the African American community? That every cop who sees a black man driving a nice car immediately thinks that something criminal is going on? It is a ridiculous idea. I know there are good people in law enforcement. My friend certainly is one.
It is far past time that we as a nation look hard at our prejudices and our misguided thoughts, on both sides of this issue, and decide that enough hatred has gone on. Wouldn’t it be a better world if we could get past our illogical thoughts and treat people as human beings… not just as a manifestation of our own fears and ignorance.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Wise words. It is time to start following them.