Honestly, there isn’t a lot that can be said about the recent shootings of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and the five police officers. I didn’t want to write about the subject because I know how this country works. Once the police officers were shot, the focus shifted from the possible senseless deaths of the two black men to the threat faced by police. I’ve seen local and national newscast focus on the lives of the officers, to the point where on Monday on the three major news channels half of the 30-minute broadcast by the networks focused on the Dallas police officers. Social media memes and questionable shares from unreliable sources pushed statistics and personal statements about the stress officers face, how we should hug a police officer and how acts of kindness to police are needed. Political opportunist jumped on the Black Lives Matter movement, calling them a fraud and racist. Even at the recent All Star Game, during the Canadian national anthem one of the singers changed the lyrics of the anthem to All Lives Matter and held up a sign with the slogan.
Now news organizations are reporting plots by black people to shoot officers. Already some fringe news organizations have criticized the girlfriend of Philando Castile, calling her a profiteer in her boyfriend’s death. It is being said Castile was shot because he had a gun, not because of the color of his skin. In the case of Sterling, documents now say he was reaching for a gun before being fatally shot.
Protests have happened all across the country about the shooting of Sterling and Castile, but if local coverage is any indication, the fact that the protests, in most cases are peaceful and non-violent are an astonishment to local and national media. Because of the incident in Dallas, much of the coverage I’ve witnesses has focused on the tools and tactics that the police will use if, heaven forbid, violence occurs at any of the rallies. By implication, because the rallies are happening and in some cases planned by people associated with Black Lives Matter, the assumption is that the natives might get restless and turn on officers.
A year ago, a group of angry white men had a protest at a mosque after the shooting that occurred in over the Mohammad drawing contest. I would argue there was less coverage of the concerns of violence at that march than there is of the protests happening now. I know, many would argue that the shooting by the lone gunman in Dallas changed the equation, but has it changed?
Since Black Lives Matters formed you had some on the radical right who wanted to paint the group as a new Black Panther Party; not the fake ones running around today or the actual ones in the 60s and 70s but the mythical one seen on TV and movies. They have made those in the movement out as being thugs, radicals and revolutionaries. People remotely associated with the movement, if they are accused of a crime, are suddenly propped up as leaders of the movement and are used to smear the whole group. The early speculation of the Dallas shooter was he was affiliated with the movement. When that turned out to be false, the damage was already done as initial reports of a group of snipers taking out white cops seemed more suited for old school 70s Blaxploitation movies.
In a majority of the shootings by police of black people, it doesn’t take much time before the police and opportunists paints the victim as the cause of their own demise. The person had a criminal record, the person was doing something illegal which caused their death or the person didn’t listen to the lawful commands of a police officer. We have to endure social commentators on cable news channels talk about the responsibility we, as black people, must take when these events happen. We have to have the talk with male children to respect the police and do everything they say. We have to address the high crime rates in Chicago or any ‘ghetto’ region in any part of the US before we can talk about police officers shooting black people. We have to take race out of the equation because when we say Black Lives Matter it excludes all people because all people matter, so the story goes.
When these shooting happen of police shooting black people, a good number of people want people to sit down and shut up. They don’t want to hear about race, they don’t want to hear about possible poor police training or perception issues. They will find any excuse in the world to dismiss the possibility that the police might be shooting blacks indiscriminately because they will find any excuse to deflect the discussion to something else. They will find the one crazy black person who says something idiotic and say they speak for all the protestors. They will find the one disturbed person who shoots and kills a police officer and say they are representative of everyone in the movement.
Trust me, the smear tactic doesn’t just happen with Black Lives Matters and black people getting shot by police. A Muslin shoots up a gay nightclub and he’s automatically a terrorist sympathizer and we should deport all Muslims. A migrant worker kills a woman and we need to ship all ‘illegals’ back to Mexico. Of course the counter argument is that all police aren’t shooting black people, and that’s true but if you had people of the Muslim faith shooting people every few months in the name of some cause, I might consider the argument but we aren’t talking a lone person shooting black people. We’re talking about black people being shot by people we are lead to believe who are out there to protect and serve us.
I’ve been here for over an hour trying to get my thoughts down about the recent shooting, even though I told myself I wasn’t going to. I have been too angry about this situation, all of it, to write anything that didn’t read like I was enraged. I still think what I’ve written so far hasn’t helped any. There’s a lot more I’d love to say but it seems like I’m going in circles. Like I’ve gone through this before.
I went to Facebook and what did I find on the My Memories of Facebook? My reaction to the Zimmerman verdict, three years ago today, where I made a video that I carry with me that essentially says I’m a non-threatening black man, please don’t shoot be but if you do, this will speak for me in my own words so I’m not defined as a thug or hoodlum. Three years after the Zimmerman verdict nothing has changed. Years of marching before and after the shooting and black people are still getting shot by the police and people like myself are in fear of their lives and reputation.
That’s why as much as I’d love to say something profound or hope for change I don’t believe it will happen, not for a long time.