“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” – James Baldwin
What an emotionally exhausting few weeks. A time to lament the grave injustice of our “just-us” system in America. It seems that justice is illusive for some and not others.
Since hearing that officer Jeronimo Yanez was found not guilty and officer Ray Tensing’s trial resulted in another hung jury, my mind has not stopped racing with the myriad of thoughts about what’s continually communicated to people of color, in particular, Black men in America.
Before I lament, I want to outline a few interesting facts about Philando Castile should give us pause as to whether or not he was being racially profiled. #JustFacts. #Receipts.
- Philando had been stopped by the police more time than the number of years he was alive. He was pulled over 46 times prior to the last stop of his life at the age of 32.
- Of the 47 times Philando was pulled over by police, only 6 of those stops were things that were observable from a police car – broken muffler or speeding.
Here’s a little history of how much Philando had experienced being pulled over by the police prior to July 6, 2016: The Driving Life and Death of Philando Castile on NPR.
The following excerpt from the NPR article gives an account of officer Yanez’s exchange with dispatch…
Castile’s girlfriend, who was in the car, said it was because of a broken taillight. But in scanner traffic audio obtained this week by Minnesota Public Radio, a nonchalant officer, yet to be confirmed as Jeronimo Yanez, told dispatchers a different story.
“Two occupants just look like people who were involved in a robbery,” he said. “The driver looks more like one of our suspects, just because of the wide-set nose.”
Gloria Hatchett, an attorney for the Castile family, said that’s racial profiling.
“How do you say, ‘There’s a robbery suspect with a broad nose, African-American?’ ” she said. “That’s equivalent to saying there’s a white woman with blond hair.”
What happened next is unclear. Was Castile just reaching for his ID, or was he reaching for his gun?
What we know is that Yanez fired his weapon.
What we know is that throughout his life, Castile was stopped by police at least 46 times before that moment.
If there was anyone familiar with the routine and perils of a traffic stop, it was Philando Castile.
The July 6 stop was his last.
Most know how this story ends; it’s practically predictable. Police Officer shoots un-armed black male. Police Officer is acquitted. I needed space to lament and articulate the emotional distress I am feeling. To name the ache in my heart.
I lament that the life of a black male in America still hinges upon a white male’s determination of value.
I lament that the humanity of black men is repeatedly stripped away when the “cause for shooting them” is because they are seen as violent, aggressive threats by default.
I lament that I have friends who don’t see the err of today’s criminal justice system.
I lament that black men can comply with police officers and still die.
I lament that the trauma both Diamond and her daughter faced is deeply etched into their memories. No 4 year old should have to console her mother for fear that she too will be shot by police.
I lament that I am often asked to explain why an officer’s perceived fear does not make a black male worthy of death.
We use a subjective law (Stand Your Ground) to determine substantive matters (life and death).
If you desire more explanations to ascribe value to the life of black men who are as much an image bearer of God as the men who shot them; miss me with that conversation. I’m not having that convo today. Probably not tomorrow. Probably not for a minute. We have to change the starting line of this conversation. Here me clearly. I am fresh out of explanations if imago dei is not your starting point.
In fact, it may be time for someone to explain to me why police officers are using body cameras if they seem to be of little benefit for the citizens? Maybe, someone should explain to me why no one’s discussing the correlation of implicit bias and police shootings. It’s a thing. A very real thing.
Isn’t it time to stop demanding an explanation and start acknowledging that the undercurrent of implicit bias has turned into a tidal wave? This slow and silent killer is destroying families, disrupting communities, and traumatizing people of color daily.