Early this week two more names were added to the tragically long list of Black men killed at the hands of police in this country. Alton Sterling and Philando Castile each left behind family, friends and communities, now shaken and forced to navigate this world without them.
In addition to the shock waves that have been sent throughout the country by their absence, the men left behind a legacy. For the world that is currently watching as these tragic events unfold, we are left with the legacy of racial disparity and inequality. We are left with a devastatingly bold statement of how broken the justice system is, how deeply rooted institutionalized racism is, and how crucial compassion and conversation are to seeking change.
Alton Sterling was fatally shot by two police officers Tuesday evening outside of a local food store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was selling CDs.
Philando Castile was fatally shot by a police officer in St. Paul, Minnesota on Wednesday, after being pulled over for a broken taillight. His girlfriend and her four year old were in the car.
My brake light has been out for about six weeks now. I keep meaning to get it fixed and then don’t, and it hasn’t been a big deal. It’s not a big deal in my mind because, as I imagine my encounter with a police officer, I picture a warning and a wave on down the road. I imagine my encounter with law enforcement going this way because I am white. The color of my skin significantly affects my life experiences in this country. I am not intrinsically viewed as a threat, a view that is so deeply entrenched in our society and dangerously influential to our justice system; a view that recently resulted in the lives of two men being taken; a view that has resulted in the lives of over 100 black Americans taken in 2016 alone.
As Barack Obama stated, these shootings are “symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system,” and these disparities must be addressed, with adequate accountability given to the police officers who perpetuate them.
On January 17, 2015, Dylann Roof fatally shot nine African Americans at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina during a prayer service. He confessed to the shootings and is currently in prison, alive, awaiting his trial, which is set to start on January 17, 2017. The criminal justice system is broken.
What happens when black men lose their lives to police officers who then do not see any repercussion for their actions?
What happens when these events then become increasingly accessible to the general public and the whole world watches wide eyed and jaw dropped at the brutality of it all?
What happens when police officers are then killed at a peaceful protest, trying to protect those protesting?
My heart breaks with the rest of the country and I don’t know what happens next. I do know that conversation, compassion, curiosity and information seem like logical steps to take down a road that has long been burning and is just now seeing the light. Black lives matter.
The thoughts and opinions expressed here are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of Citizen Slant.