Black Lives Don't Matter In The United States

Black Lives Don't Matter In The United States

We reduce victims of violence to nothing to hide from our own shame
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This past week has been exhausting.

It started with the decision reached on Tuesday that Philando Castile’s killer would be walking free as he was not found guilty of even one count against him.

This is the same Philando Castile of whom there is video, not released to the public until after the trial, complying calmly and politely with the officer before getting shot with not one, not two, not three, but four fatal bullets. He bled out to death at the wheel of his car in front of his girlfriend and a 4-year-old child.

This is the same Philando Castile whose girlfriend proceeded to film herself on Facebook Live as she was being screamed at by the officer who had just callously ended her best friend’s young life right in front of her. She continued to speak to the officer with a level of calmness and respect, even ending every truncated remark with “sir," though the supposedly trained officer did not offer her the same level of respect.

This is also the same Philando Castile who worked with hundreds of children at his school and who had developed wonderful relationships with many of them.

The is the same Philando Castile to whom one of the children wrote a heart wrenching, emotionally devastating letter. It started, “This year I was going to give you a gift but then you dided but I’m giving you a gift anyway!”

The letter continued, “You hade the bigest heart ever I rlly miss you. I rlly rlly miss you. Your the best lunchman we could ever have I wish you were alive. You have rainbows in your heart!” [sic].

As if all of this wasn't enough, another acquittal also occurred recently, this time of (now-fired) officer Dominque Heaggan-Brown who shot and killed Sylville Smith.

The encounter, captured on bodycam, started with a gun-wielding Smith running from Brown. As he attempted to hop a fence, Smith was shot once and fell to the ground. He had thrown his gun over the fence before attempting the jump.

No one disputes that this was a justified shot. What happened next, however, is a reminder of the callousness with which we treat the lives of those who are being pursued by the cops. After being shot once, and falling to the ground, Smith, now unarmed, was shot again, this time fatally in the chest, just 1.69 seconds later.

Smith was just 23-years-old. His family was in tears as they watched their loved one die on video at the trial.

Finally, in my hometown of Cincinnati, the trial over the killing of Samuel Dubose ended in another hung jury and another mistrial. This time, jurors deliberated into their fifth day and were still unable to reach a decision.

In this case, there was also bodycam video and it is inexplicable, in my opinion, how any juror could come to the conclusion that the actions taken by Ray Tensing were justifiable. He shot and killed Samuel Dubose and later lied about having been dragged by Dubose’s car.

All of this was for the simple “crime” of not having a front license plate, a “crime” of which I and millions of other people are guilty, a crime which Tensing’s lawyer said during closing arguments made people “fair game for police.”

Many people across the country are, rightfully, outraged by the inherent injustices of these cases, particularly the murder of Philando Castile.

But these cases, as abhorrent as they are, do not reflect a malice or hatred present within the officers involved. These are not “bad apple” cases. Instead, they reflect a widespread callousness and uncaring with which we treat people pursued by the police and lack of importance we place on their bodies, lives, hopes, and dreams. To police departments, to juries, to us, they are nothing.

I do not think that any of the officers in the above shootings, nor in most of the police killings widely publicized over the last few years, were killing out of malice or hatred. I do not think they set out to be a cop in the hopes of killing someone, of watching the life drain from someone’s eyes.

In the videos showing the last moments of Castile and Dubose's lives, you can see and hear the distress present in the officers after firing their shots. In fact, Castile’s shooting officer screams “FUCK!”

What we see instead are officers who are not properly trained and who do not think of the people in front of them as people, but rather as threats, as criminals, as things to be controlled. Only after they are dead do we learn their names. Only after they are dead do we learn and care that they are fathers, sons, brothers, friends, husbands, neighbors, and beloved members of communities.

Cases of police brutality get the most coverage in the media, but State-sponsored violence occurs after arrests, too.

It happens when cops and guards beat prisoners. It happens with a wanton lack of regard for the mental health of people in jails, just awaiting their release on bail or awaiting a trial because they can’t afford bail.

It happened with a man who was kept in a jail cell awaiting trial. He had not even been convicted of a crime, and yet he was deprived of food and water for 7 days before he was found dead from dehydration. The sheriff of that department was not fired or even rebuked. Instead, he’s been given national security clearance.

Much can be said about the legality of many of these cases, whether the cops involved met the base legal barrier for being found not guilty. What cannot be argued, however, is whether these people, these human beings, deserved to die.

People have been killed over things as minute and inconsequential as a turn signal, playing with a toy gun, or “adjusting his pants.”

Something is clearly wrong with the system when these events become less tragic and instead more embedded everyday reality.

There have been so many lives cut short, so many relationships destroyed, so many dreams destroyed, and so much potential unrealized.

Black lives don't matter, at least not here, not in the United States. When black people die at the hands of police or through other means of State-sponsored violence, they become mere statistics. Their lives, once vibrant and complex, full of relationships and aspirations the same as any of us, become reduced to one event. An event in which they had zero control over what happened to them.

We reduce them to nothing because it makes it easier to justify their deaths, to make it out like nothing is wrong with our precious system, with our precious country. We reduce them to nothing to soothe our collective shame.

Cover Image Credit: Darren Ornitz

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It's Time To Thank Your First Roommate

Not the horror story kind of roommate, but the one that was truly awesome.
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Nostalgic feelings have recently caused me to reflect back on my freshman year of college. No other year of my life has been filled with more ups and downs, and highs and lows, than freshman year. Throughout all of the madness, one factor remained constant: my roommate. It is time to thank her for everything. These are only a few of the many reasons to do so, and this goes for roommates everywhere.

You have been through all the college "firsts" together.

If you think about it, your roommate was there through all of your first college experiences. The first day of orientation, wishing you luck on the first days of classes, the first night out, etc. That is something that can never be changed. You will always look back and think, "I remember my first day of college with ____."

You were even each other's first real college friend.

You were even each other's first real college friend.

Months before move-in day, you were already planning out what freshman year would be like. Whether you previously knew each other, met on Facebook, or arranged to meet in person before making any decisions, you made your first real college friend during that process.

SEE ALSO: 18 Signs You're A Little Too Comfortable With Your Best Friends

The transition from high school to college is not easy, but somehow you made it out on the other side.

It is no secret that transitioning from high school to college is difficult. No matter how excited you were to get away from home, reality hit at some point. Although some people are better at adjusting than others, at the times when you were not, your roommate was there to listen. You helped each other out, and made it through together.

Late night talks were never more real.

Remember the first week when we stayed up talking until 2:00 a.m. every night? Late night talks will never be more real than they were freshman year. There was so much to plan for, figure out, and hope for. Your roommate talked, listened, laughed, and cried right there with you until one of you stopped responding because sleep took over.

You saw each other at your absolute lowest.

It was difficult being away from home. It hurt watching relationships end and losing touch with your hometown friends. It was stressful trying to get in the swing of college level classes. Despite all of the above, your roommate saw, listened, and strengthened you.

...but you also saw each other during your highest highs.

After seeing each other during the lows, seeing each other during the highs was such a great feeling. Getting involved on campus, making new friends, and succeeding in classes are only a few of the many ways you have watched each other grow.

There was so much time to bond before the stresses of college would later take over.

Freshman year was not "easy," but looking back on it, it was more manageable than you thought at the time. College only gets busier the more the years go on, which means less free time. Freshman year you went to lunch, dinner, the gym, class, events, and everything else possible together. You had the chance to be each other's go-to before it got tough.

No matter what, you always bounced back to being inseparable.

Phases of not talking or seeing each other because of business and stress would come and go. Even though you physically grew apart, you did not grow apart as friends. When one of you was in a funk, as soon as it was over, you bounced right back. You and your freshman roommate were inseparable.

The "remember that one time, freshman year..." stories never end.

Looking back on freshman year together is one of my favorite times. There are so many stories you have made, which at the time seemed so small, that bring the biggest laughs today. You will always have those stories to share together.

SEE ALSO: 15 Things You Say To Your Roommates Before Going Out

The unspoken rule that no matter how far apart you grow, you are always there for each other.

It is sad to look back and realize everything that has changed since your freshman year days. You started college with a clean slate, and all you really had was each other. Even though you went separate ways, there is an unspoken rule that you are still always there for each other.

Your old dorm room is now filled with two freshmen trying to make it through their first year. They will never know all the memories that you made in that room, and how it used to be your home. You can only hope that they will have the relationship you had together to reflect on in the years to come.


Cover Image Credit: Katie Ward

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The Real Reason For The U.S. State Of Emergency

Everyone thinks they know why President Donald Trump is declaring a state, but what is Trump ACTUALLY going to do with that funding?

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Our president recently declared a state of emergency to create a wall. The Democrats were not giving him the money he wanted, and now he has gone around normal judiciary means to give him the money he desires. He has done this without the approval from almost everyone else in Washington DC. This wall will now cost the US eight billion dollars, a government shutdown where thousands of people were out of work, an intensified divide between the Democrats and Republicans, and way too much paperwork.

There is a lot of speculation as to why he would want to build this wall. From preventing illegal immigrants, to stopping rapists, to protecting the jobs of real Americans, everyone has their theories, but I think I've figured it out. The real reason Trump wants to create a wall because the US has a crush on China. It may sound crazy and it may even sound like it doesn't make sense but if we compare a classic schoolboy crush to the recent policies between the US and China, the similarities are uncanny.

We'll take his desire to build a wall. When you think about countries with great walls, what do you think? The Great Wall of China? Most people would. But if the US creates a huge wall between the southern US border and Mexico, most people will start to consider the "Great Wall" to be the one in the US. When a little boy has a crush on a little girl, he wants her to notice him. Often he'll start to get involved in things she's interested in or good at. In this case, Trump considered everything he knew about China and decided on the wall. The little boy will try to show off by trying to be the best at the thing the little girl is good at, even if it means being better than her. Trump is creating this wall to be "huge" and is likely trying to outdo the Great Wall in China. Just like the little boy, Trump does whatever he can to get the little girl's attention. Even if it means doing things he shouldn't.

Which is when we come to him declaring the state of emergency. After the government finally opened, US President Trump declared a state of emergency. This means that if there is something like war, a viral outbreak, or an economic crisis then the government would have to deal with that urgency. Currently, the US is suffering from those three things. First, the US is still stationing troops in the Middle East. Second, the measles outbreak is spreading across the nation. And third, the US is in a bit of an economic crisis after our government shutdown and our trade-war with China. But just like the little boy, important things like homework, chores and walking the dog are ignored. Instead of pulling troops out of the Middle East, preventing kids from not getting vaccinated, or mending ties with our foreign trading partners, Trump is focused on the wall. His view of an emergency is bettering the Great Wall of China. He's just trying to get the girl.

This state of emergency was brought on because the Democrats would not give Trump the full amount to build his border wall. This is similar to when the little boy asks the little girl's friends to help him impress the little girl; they promise to help, but they don't want to go along with every part of his extensive plan. In Trump's case, the plan the Democrats agreed to was just over one billion dollars, but that was far too short of the five billion dollars the president sought to fulfill, so he ditched their plan. And when the little boy goes off on his own and attempts to execute the plan, which results in him ultimately failing, Trump does the same thing. He went around the law and declared a state of emergency to gain an additional six billion dollars to fund his wall, with more money than originally needed. And while he has not failed yet, 16 states are in the process of suing President Trump for his misuse of the state of emergency.

The little boy went against the wishes of his friends and the little girl's friends just to impress her. No matter what other Republicans said or what Democrats said, Trump was determined to have this wall. He even defied those who were looking out for his best interest. Even the little boy's best friend, or in Trump's case Mitch McConnell, warned him against doing these crazy things to get the girl's attention, but Trump did it anyway.

But during all of this what the boy is not considering are the little girl's feelings. In an attempt to get noticed by the little girl, he has forced her away and caused her to hate him. But once the little boy realizes that the little girl does not like him, he has two options: stop trying to outdo her and try to be her friend or go through her best friend to try to get the little girl's best friend to tell her how amazing the little boy is. Which is why the US is having peace talks with North Korea.

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