When I was little I was told to dial 911 if I was in trouble. If I did, the good guys would come and save me. Cops were the ones who could rescue me. Even from myself! They were to remind me should I not know my rights. To serve and protect.
I often don’t recognize names trending on Twitter. Today when I looked into ‘Alton Sterling’, I was not ready for what I saw in the video. I had no idea who the man was, yet upon googling him it became clear that he was no saint . He had been in trouble and he had done time. These days he usually sat on the same corner selling cds, the same corner where he was shot. I mention his past because already I see pitchforks claiming that he was just another no good criminal who had it coming. He shouldn’t have been on that corner. He shouldn’t have ‘messed’ with the police. To those people I say ‘watch the video’ and also this:
Those two cops murdered Alton Sterling. To them, he was a man in a red shirt. Lying on the ground, hands behind his back. In the video he is merely inhaling and exhaling as they scream ‘You had better lay down! I’ll do it! I swear to god I will do it!’
The reports say that there was an altercation between Sterling and another person before the police were called. It has been reported that Sterling had mentioned he was carrying a gun. No doubt that is grounds to call the police but had the police shown the same regard for human life as the person who called 911 Alton Sterling would be in a cell instead of a morgue.
Alton had 37 years here. The video cuts away for a moment as the cops continue to hurl threats at him as he remains lying down. In an instant, bullets tear a hole into his heart and begin to soak his red shirt. He lays there, arms reaching outward. He begins to seize. In less than 40 seconds he is gone. Plain as day, in the middle of the day, on Tuesday in 2016 we’ve witnessed a public execution. THESE ARE COPS. THEY TOOK AN OATH TO SERVE AND PROTECT. THEYRE SUPPOSED TO REMIND HIM OF HIS RIGHT TO A TRIAL BY A JURY OF HIS PEERS. NOT BE THE JUDGE JURY AND EXECUTIONER IN THE SPAN OF 45 SECONDS. No reminder of his rights. No respectful understanding that he had a right to remain silent. There was no trial. There was nothing but two cops, a smoking gun, and a black man still lying down, now in a pool of blood forever staining his red shirt.
There is more to these senseless deaths than blaming all cops. IF these two cops are brought to trial (which is doubtful) they most likely will be exonerated for their crime. We have our peers to thank for that.
Oscar Grant (18) lying face down and handcuffed when he was shot in the back New Years Day while on the BART. He was unarmed. Officer acquitted of all charges.
Trayvon Martin (17) His killer stalked him well into the evening (despite the dispatchers urging to stop) because the teen was wearing a black sweatshirt and looked ‘suspicious’. He was gunned down in the gated community he happened to live in. Martin was unarmed. He had with him his wallet, a photo of his dead cousin pinned to a badge, and a bag of skittles. He was 17. The killer was acquitted of ALL CHARGES.
Tamir Rice (12) Gunned down for holding a toy gun in a park. GUNNED DOWN FOR HOLDING A TOY GUN IN A PARK. Shots fired by police within TWO SECONDS of arrival at the park. Officer acquitted of all charges.
Eric Garner (43) Put into a 19 second choke hold by an officer for selling lose cigarettes rather than packs without tax stamps…Put into a 19 second choke hold by an officer for selling loose cigarettes.
On July 17, 2014, at approximately 3:30 p.m., Garner was approached by a plainclothes police officer, Justin Damico, in front of a beauty supply store at 202 Bay Street in Tompkinsville, Staten Island. According to bystanders, including Ramsey Orta, a friend of Garner’s who recorded the incident on his cell phone, Garner had just broken up a fight, which may have drawn the attention of the police—although Garner may also have been selling “loosies” (single cigarettes without a tax stamp) in violation of New York state law. Garner is heard on the video saying, “Get away [garbled] for what? Every time you see me, you want to mess with me. I’m tired of it. It stops today. Why would you…? Everyone standing here will tell you I didn’t do nothing. I did not sell nothing. Because every time you see me, you want to harass me. You want to stop me [garbled] selling cigarettes. I’m minding my business, officer, I’m minding my business. Please just leave me alone. I told you the last time, please just leave me alone.”
Once again, grand jury decided to acquit.
Alton Sterling may in fact be the only man on this list who was armed, but that isn’t the point. He didn’t deserve to die. He had already done the time for his crimes.He didn’t deserve to expire on a sidewalk on the wrong side of a pair of cop’s smoking gun.
I picture my own father being put into a choke hold for selling a single cigarette. I picture him being profiled by a cop at all.
I picture my nephews when they’re older and surely playing with toys in a park. I think of myself at 12 years old and how innocent I was. How the world is just beginning to come into focus. How you all of a sudden can grasp there is a tomorrow.
I picture my (now much more honest) best dudes at 17 years old reeking havoc around our town. Crashing mailboxes, stealing alcohol, running around late at night without a care in the world. Getting pulled over by the cops only to be sent on their merry way since they promised to get their tail light fixed. I look at them now with deep admiration for the men they have grown to become and am so grateful they were able to be here with me through the infinite abyss that is growing up. But I never had to think ‘why wouldn’t they?’ Their reckless behavior came at the hands of their own vices. No one elses.
I hope this lament doesn’t offend anyone but I am offended. I am sad. I can’t imagine.
The things in which people are facing based on the color of their skin in the year 2016 is life threatening. Yes black on black crime is an issue. But so is racism. The names listed above were killed by the same men who took an oath to protect them. When was the last time a Los Gatos white kid was gunned down for walking around a neighborhood late at night? Where a 12 year old white kid was shot in a park by a cop for holding a toy gun? When a white man breaking up a fight with loose cigarettes on him is approached by an undercover cop?
Don’t just be aware of your privilege, be aware that others don’t have the same. Racism is BLATANT. Racism is HAPPENING. The poster child for ‘racist POS’ is the front runner for our Republican Party. November 2016.
If you are someone who doesn’t have to rule out certain states on road trips because you would have to be concerned for your safety.
If you don’t have to be concerned about what type of car you buy that might give someone a reason to pull you over.
If you have never had someone drive by you and wave a confederate flag in the year two thousand and sixteen.
If you have never had to worry when you dialed 911 or got pulled over whether your skin affected the value of your human according to the man with a badge and a gun.
These policemen do not have the right to decide whether someone lives or dies when their ‘suspects’ are lying face down on the cement, when they are a child playing in the park, when they’re coming home from a New Years party on public transportation, when they’re breaking up a fight on the street with loose cigarettes and cash in their pocket. Even when they are being a hot head on the corner where they’re trying to support their five children, THEY STILL DON’T GET TO DECIDE.
My heart is heavy for the world these days and this senseless debate that we are not all human. Speak up.