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

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

Popular Right Now

An Open Letter to the Person Who Still Uses the "R Word"

Your negative associations are slowly poisoning the true meaning of an incredibly beautiful, exclusive word.

What do you mean you didn't “mean it like that?" You said it.

People don't say things just for the hell of it. It has one definition. Merriam-Webster defines it as, "To be less advanced in mental, physical or social development than is usual for one's age."

So, when you were “retarded drunk" this past weekend, as you claim, were you diagnosed with a physical or mental disability?

When you called your friend “retarded," did you realize that you were actually falsely labeling them as handicapped?

Don't correct yourself with words like “stupid," “dumb," or “ignorant." when I call you out. Sharpen your vocabulary a little more and broaden your horizons, because I promise you that if people with disabilities could banish that word forever, they would.

Especially when people associate it with drunks, bad decisions, idiotic statements, their enemies and other meaningless issues. Oh trust me, they are way more than that.

I'm not quite sure if you have had your eyes opened as to what a disabled person is capable of, but let me go ahead and lay it out there for you. My best friend has Down Syndrome, and when I tell people that their initial reaction is, “Oh that is so nice of you! You are so selfless to hang out with her."

Well, thanks for the compliment, but she is a person. A living, breathing, normal girl who has feelings, friends, thousands of abilities, knowledge, and compassion out the wazoo.

She listens better than anyone I know, she gets more excited to see me than anyone I know, and she works harder at her hobbies, school, work, and sports than anyone I know. She attends a private school, is a member of the swim team, has won multiple events in the Special Olympics, is in the school choir, and could quite possibly be the most popular girl at her school!

So yes, I would love to take your compliment, but please realize that most people who are labeled as “disabled" are actually more “able" than normal people. I hang out with her because she is one of the people who has so effortlessly taught me simplicity, gratitude, strength, faith, passion, love, genuine happiness and so much more.

Speaking for the people who cannot defend themselves: choose a new word.

The trend has gone out of style, just like smoking cigarettes or not wearing your seat belt. It is poisonous, it is ignorant, and it is low class.

As I explained above, most people with disabilities are actually more capable than a normal human because of their advantageous ways of making peoples' days and unknowingly changing lives. Hang out with a handicapped person, even if it is just for a day. I can one hundred percent guarantee you will bite your tongue next time you go to use the term out of context.

Hopefully you at least think of my friend, who in my book is a hero, a champion and an overcomer. Don't use the “R Word". You are way too good for that. Stand up and correct someone today.

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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News Flash: 'Building The Wall' Is Still A Dumb Idea And Always Will Be

The government is still partially shutdown because of funding for the wall. Really?


A man who is a strong supporter of building the wall told me this metaphor: If you don't want the wrong people walking into your backyard, you put a fence up. We don't want the wrong people coming to America, so we put a wall up. I respect people's political beliefs, and because of this, I want to share mine.

I believe that President Trump demanding money to build a border wall is dumb.

It's hard to believe so many people really think that this "build a wall" has everything to do about border security. It's just inhumane and wrong.

Literally, the most notorious drug lord of Mexico has shed light about how he smuggles the drug into the U.S. They have brought it through fishing boats, trucks going through the legal point of entry, underground tunnel, but not through unwalled parts. The half of million pounds of narcotics that were secured at the border? They were all al legal points of entry.

I'm saying this because I am a proud daughter of immigrants who crossed the border. The media has portrayed immigrants as these horrible people infiltrating our country. They just want somewhere safe to live to raise their kid.

The conditions of Latin American countries are inexplicable. Communist have risen from the ashes dominating these countries letting people rot on the street starving. There are little to no job opportunities. I haven't seen my family in three years because it is dangerous to go.

The media doesn't tell you this. They don't tell you how many people have gone to the border and returned to Mexico because ICE agents tear gas them.

They tell you that they throw babies over fences to distract border patrol agents. They tell you children are dying because of malnutrition of trekking thousands of miles to get the border. They don't tell you that those same children have been eating unmonitored food with thousands of microorganism some mal some good.

Not all immigrants are not bad people. The notions that all immigrants are criminals is "fake news." It has been a hook, line, and sinker for the Republican Party. There are studies such as one from the journal Criminology showing that places with high undocumented immigrant population does not equal high crime.

Should undocumented citizens attempt to become legal residents of the United States? Absolutely, and that is a problem if they are evading taxes and other legal notions with more consequences.

However, we should not lie to ourselves and act as a wall is to help border security against drugs and crime. It's just a physical quota like 1920s immigration laws. There is a better solution then sacrificing 5.7 billion dollars. Let me translate that: 5,700,000,000 dollars. That is our taxes. As a college student, I rather have those 5.7 billion dollars be translated to scholarship, grants, financial aid, and helping us, the future of this country become the best people we can be. Why build a wall when the future of America, who I personally think is more important can be helped.

I don't come from a rich family, and I don't have the means to afford a college education without loans, so when I hear that the Government can afford to give 5.7 billion dollars for a wall, I have the right to be upset. Tell me I'm wrong, and call me dumb, but this is my unpopular opinion.


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