And Justice for All

Source: The amazing Mary Engelbreit.
I am having a hard time this week. I wanted to write about Alton Sterling, the Black man who was tackled by two white police officers and then shot while they pinned him down on the ground. How the fuck does this even happen? I railed and I cried and I screamed. I wanted to write something, but I felt like a fraud doing so. What do I know about experiencing racism? Not a lot. I'm a white woman living in a very white world. What could I possibly add to the discussion except more noise? Maybe I'll say the wrong thing?

I didn't want to be angry when I wrote about Alton. I didn't want to be accused of being just another stupid, angry bitch who who doesn't know what she's talking about (because we all know that's what some fucking dude will tell me, only when he does it, he'll call me a cunt because that's what angry men call me). I wanted to be articulate and eloquent. I wanted to be exact with my words when I wrote about Alton Sterling, so I kept trying, but nothing came.

And then I saw the video of Philando Castile. I watched that video more times than is healthy. I noticed tiny details like he was still wearing his seat belt when he was shot. Like the cop refused to put down his weapon when it was abundantly clear that Philando was dying and his fiancee was not a threat and there was A CHILD IN THE BACKSEAT! Like the calm, measured voice of Philando's fiancee as she live-streamed the entire thing on Facebook. Like the fact that she had to behave this way because there was A CHILD IN THE BACKSEAT of that car and she didn't want the situation to escalate any further than it already had. I put myself in her position. What would I have done if a police officer shot my fiance in front me of me and my child? I admire her strength, because I don't think I could have remained calm and collected the way she did.

After watching Philando's death, I thought, "Nothing will happen to that cop." That's when I realized that I've lost all faith in justice. We've known that these sorts of altercations are happening every day, but nothing changes. Cameras were supposed to even the playing field. Cameras were supposed to make a difference. And instead, the cameras are only giving us a close up of just how fucked up our system is. The cameras aren't making a difference. The injustice still keeps happening, but now we can all witness it over and over again!

At that moment, I understood that I didn't need to present a smart and well-thought-out argument. Instead, this calls for an anguished tirade. I have tears streaming down my cheeks as I write this. I am looking around my office to see what I can throw at the walls. I want to burn something to the ground! I feel so much pain and yet I'm also numb because this is becoming the norm and I don't see a solution or an end in sight.

This problem is so big, it's more than just one thing. It's not just race, it's not just some bad cops, it's not just ignorance, it's not just fear, it's not just our inability to see one other as fellow human beings with full lives and families who love us and miss us when we're goneit's not the way the media portrays victims, it's not just apathy, and it's not just our obsession and easy access to guns, it's ALL OF IT. All of this must change and that's what I find so overwhelming. That's where I get mad and sad and exhausted and I just want to go back to bed and hope that when I wake up in the morning, someone else will have solved this problem. But that's not going to happen.

We are so fucked up as a nation that I sit here and weep for the future that my children will inherit. I will do what I can, but I do believe the change must come from within the police department. I'm not saying all police officers are bad, but I do think that police officers have a hard time admitting that there are some bad apples.

I get that the loyalty they have for one another runs deep, but someone needs to stand up for justice. Police officers need to demand that the bad ones be rooted out. There are some doing this, but there needs to be more. It's time for these killers to stand trial for their crimes and be punished. It's time for more than just empty "thoughts and prayers" and "full investigations" that lead nowhere. I don't want to hear about that shit anymore. I don't want to read an article that tells me that police officers get a "day or two to go home and think about it" before being officially interviewed after a shooting. WTF is that about??? That doesn't seem to right to me. Who else gets a day or two to get their story sorted after they've shot someone? If I shot someone today, would I get two days to think about it or would I immediately be questioned for 8 hours without so much as a bathroom break?? I don't want to read about a cop on MY police force leaving threatening messages towards a CHILD on Facebook. This is terrifying and unacceptable and believe me when I say I will be following this story VERY closely! I don't want an investigation that leads to a slap on the hand, I want heads to roll. (Update: he was fired.)

I want our country to have a police force that is known for their integrity and their bravery and their ability to protect and serve and to promote peace. I know that there are tons of good cops out there who are caught in this and their reputations are being dragged down by those few bad officers and it's time for the good ones to stand up and say NO MORE of this shit! I know they exist, because I've seen them out providing protection to protesters of all kinds and I see them participating in their neighborhoods. I know they want to do good, but the longer they stay silent, the worse it will get.

And don't get me wrong--hear me clearly when I say that I'm not against cops. I am simply on the side of justice. I want justice for these two men, but I also want justice for the five police officers in Dallas who were hunted down and executed. Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Lorne Ahrens, and Michael Smith were murdered the other night because of their occupation. That isn't justice either. I'm not drawing a line anywhere except to say that ALL HUMANS MATTER. No matter our skin color, our occupation, our politics, our income levels, we all bleed red. I want to see fair trials. I want to see all of the evidence and I want an unbiased jury to render a verdict based on that evidence. I don't want anyone on either side of this argument meting out justice in the streets. This isn't the Wild West.

It's also time for the rest of us to stand up and say ENOUGH. Yes, I'm a white woman who doesn't understand at all what life is like for a Black man, but I don't have to understand his life to want justice. I can't be afraid to raise my voice against injustice. I can't be afraid of the consequences, because these are my fellow human beings who are being murdered. By keeping silent I, too, am part of the problem.

It's time for some outrage.

Remember a couple of weeks ago when everyone lost their shit because a GORILLA was killed???? A gorilla. I saw more online protests and rants and tear-filled hand-wringing for an animal that was holding a small child captive and could have easily hurt or killed him. But people went fucking bananas (yeah, I see what I did there) over this shit. Yet, a Black man is killed by police and those same people say, "Well, let's just see what's going to happen here..."

NOOOOOOOOO! I don't care if Alton Sterling was selling CDs illegally, that doesn't justify a death sentence without so much as a trial. I don't care if Philando was carrying a gun. He probably had a right to do so, thanks to the tireless work of the NRA -- or can only white men carry guns (and fire them at police officers) without fear of death? I don't care if these men told the cops to go fuck themselves (which they didn't, BTW, but if they had, it still doesn't give the cops the right to gun them down). Instead, we need more police officers like Nakia Jones.

A friend sent me this video today and it hit me hard.

Yes! I know that racism exists, I don't want it for me, but why am I willing to accept it for others? I'm not. I won't. I think we're at a crossroads right now. I think that when I watch the world sliding towards more nationalistic, xenophobic, and racist tendencies, I feel an overwhelming urge to speak up. I'm trying to make a better future for my kids. I have to remember that although they aren't black, they certainly aren't white and I can't stand by quietly and wait for them to be victims too. We can each only do what we're comfortable with, but we all must do something. I live in a state where my vote means nothing and yet I still throw it away each election cycle hoping for change. I call my politicians and beg for tighter gun controls. I try to listen. And I raise my voice and add it to the chorus of those who try to speak out for justice for all.

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