Alton Sterling was shot and killed by the police yesterday. There are already reports trying to justify why he was killed in the parking lot of a convenience store in Baton Rouge, LA. Those reports don’t matter to me because it’s like justifying the police’s ability to act as judge, jury, and executioner. Which, no matter what the flaws are within our criminal justice system, is not how any of this works.
Mr. Sterling’s death reminds me of the things I get to do today that he won’t. I woke up this morning to shower irritated with myself for not going to bed earlier. I made breakfast with my wife and then she dropped me off at the Metro so I can go to work.
I get to be cranky with people on the metro and hold the door for others. I get to talk with people and interact about whatever we want to talk about. I get to move freely through DC without someone’s negative assumptions of me impacting my life in a meaningful way. I get to be upset by the heat in DC and wipe my brow of sweat.
I will get to exist without anyone diving into my history. No one is doing a deep dive into my past to try to justify my death. I get to sit and type this reflection on my feelings in reaction to Mr. Sterling’s death. I get to about how his murder is connected to the murder of my own father.
I get to write letters to the Department of Justice for them to investigate new ways of training the police departments across the US and the federal law enforcement agencies. I get to ask Lorette Lynch to consider addressing implicit bias in the justice system that disproportionately imprisons and kills people of color across the US.
I get to exist.
I get to live.
I get to feel.
I get to think.
I get to challenge.
I get to push.
I get to question.
I get to be me in ways so many people across the world are denied.
I have full access to my humanity and life today. Alton Sterling does not. We all need to consider how we deal with that information. I’m torn up about it and I feel the need to do something about it because another life has turned into a hashtag. We need to consider how to change the roots of how our civil servants work for us. We need to consider how our systems don’t serve us all in the same way. We need to accept criticism and recognize that nothing is free from criticism and dissent. Expressing dissatisfaction with the way things are is one of the foundations of our society.
I’m dissatisfied and I’m telling people about it. What are you doing today?
We are the people who must act now. We are the people who must make the invisible, pervasive systems of injustice transparent. We need to shine our collective light on what’s wrong and what’s been happening while also offering new ways to exist.
We are the people who must act now. We are the people who must make the invisible, pervasive systems of injustice transparent. We need to shine our collective light on what’s wrong and what’s been happening while also offering new ways to exist. We will do this through the collective action of our rising voices everywhere that they need to be heard. We need to recognize that the system is not broken. The United States of America is founded on ideals that degraded non-white people into non-human beings. The United States of American is founded on ideals that marginalized women and minimized their contributions. The United States of America is founded on ideals that turns people into commodities. The United States of America is founded on the blood-soaked ground of millions of native people.
Those of us with privilege must listen and stand alongside the voices of the unheard. We need to recognize that we do not have the same life experience, but we can push to change that. All human lives should matter but, to paraphrase Animal Farm, some human lives matter more than others in our current state. To truly make all human lives matter we need more than body cameras on all police. We need more than the empty promises of politicians. We need to shape a new culture that recognizes the inherent worth of all human beings. To do this we will need to shed our values of humans as commodities.
The time to act is now. We need to know what we want, take action to get it, and reflect on if it’s going the way we planned and including the voices of everyone. We’ve seen killers walk free after trials. We’ve seen killers walk free before even facing a trial. We’ve watched a father be murdered by illegal restraint on video. We’ve watched a 12 year old boy get shot before getting a chance to surrender. We’ve seen the injustice come to life in front of us in ways that wasn’t possible before now. This brutality isn’t new but we’re just now seeing it. It’s just now coming to our consciousness. We should be pissed because it’s happening and because we haven’t known before now.
We need to understand that this is not as simple as doing some trainings or watching a buzzfeed video about microaggressions. We’ve been shown the depth of the injustice. It runs deep and throughout our history. It’s not just on the individual levels but infused into our institutions and governments. It dictates every level of our cultures down to the most minute detail. Nearly everything we do or participate in is founded upon injustice. So those of us who have been privileged in our lives regardless of the reason have a responsibility. We have to listen. We have to notice. We have to speak. We have to stand together because we have to recognize the change that is necessary.
In the wake of the senseless deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and Rumain Brisbon (and many, many others) we can begin to see and that sight of constant injustice radicalized us. We know that we must grasp at the root of the problem and we know that’s not easy. We must stand in solidarity with each other to support the movement toward justice. We must all grasp at the root together in order to truly create the beloved community that we all deserve.