They say lightning rarely strikes twice in the same spot, but when it comes to witnessing the brutal and callous manner in which American “peace” officers treat individuals of African descent, males in particular, the lightning continues striking our hearts, minds and souls in the very same spot. White hot, piercing and all-consuming.
Yesterday, just a day after the videotaped wanton slaughter of Alton Sterling, we rise to another day of pain, scapegoating and needless debate.
Yesterday, 32-year-old Philando Castile, a cafeteria supervisor at J.J. Hill Montessori school in St. Paul, Minnesota, was riding in the passenger seat with his girlfriend, Lavish Reynolds, when they were pulled over by Falcon Heights (MN) police officers for a busted tail light. Regardless of race, for many who grew up or still maintain residence in heavily policed districts, being pulled over is an angst-ridden situation. Heavily policed areas aren’t necessarily high crime areas.
In the northern portion of the country, heavily policed areas are often highway corridors and streets that connect the suburbs and the inner city. Additionally, being Black in certain areas is just cause to be pulled over and inspected in the minds of certain officers.
For Black people these encounters are tantamount to miniature nervous breakdowns. Most of us have had “The Talk” with loved ones and friends at some point in our lives to help us survive during police encounters.
“No sudden moves, keep your hands in plain sight, do as the officer says, don’t talk back.”
Indeed, the prideful often need a drink to wash down these encounters. Particularly so when realizing the sometimes petty, random reasons the officer gives. What happens when we comply with everything the officer asks of us? The Falcon Heights incident informs us that even courteous obedience may not be enough to survive the encounter.
In the heart-wrenching video that was streamed live in the immediate aftermath of the shooting of Castile, we see the bloodied victim writhing in pain, his shirt bloodied.”Please, officer, don’t tell me that you just did this to him,” Reynolds said calmly. “You shot four bullets into him, sir. He was getting his license and registration, sir.”
Though she seemed calm, Ms. Reynold’s level in such an emotional and deadly situation is commendable. The officer can be heard screaming savagely, “I told him to put his hands up”, to which Ms. Reynolds responded ‘Sir, no you didn’t. You asked him for his license and registration.”
The officer in question can be heard screaming further instructions, and you can also hear a terrified child screaming in the backseat.
Ms. Reynolds explains in the video that Mr. Castile is licensed to carry a firearm and that he told the officer that he was in fact armed but was shot while complying with the officers demands.
Protesters have taken to the streets as crowds gathered outside the governor’s mansion demanding justice. This is the second time this week that the reality of being Black in America has hit home. No matter your station, dress or demeanor, you’re still more likely to be shot by law enforcement in America if you’re Black.