By JEANETTE LENOIR
My heart is heavy. Not from joy but from the pain that overwhelmed me with the senseless killing of Philando Castile. He wasn’t killed once when it was live streamed across Facebook, but twice when a jury of his supposed peers made a conscience choice to not punish the police officer charged with his murder. And, a piece of America was killed too.
Castile was tremendously loved and good. This sentiment came across loud and clear from those who were touched by his love, gentleness and kindness after his life was mercilessly ripped from him. He died a terrible death. What made his killing incredibly painful is that the world watched him slip away grasping for air. Speaking his last words…”I can’t breath.” We all watched in horror as his precious life seeped out of his body like a wilting flower sped up for real time viewing on National Geographic.
I’m very angry and deeply sorry at the same time. These emotions aren’t new anymore. I felt the same anger and helpless feeling when I watched other black men and women brutally killed by those sworn to serve and protect We The People. But with each senseless killing it is becoming painfully clear, We The People is a subjective concept. How can we—black people—be part of the “We” described in the Constitution that upholds our laws and is meant to blanket us as a nation of one people under God when we—black people—are targeted like animals deserving of extinction?
Since the inception of this country, black people have been brutalized, terrorized, marginalized and blatantly mistreated. The Invisibles, a book about the untold stories of African Americans in the White House, written by Jesse Holland, states that the very first African slave to be inducted in this tragic archive of our history was named John Punch. …John Punch. The writings on the wall are revealing. We, as black people have been feeling this theoretical punch since the creation of America. We marched peacefully, protested passionately, sat-in bravely, walked hand-in-hand staunchly, and continue to fight hard for the freedoms those that don’t look like us enjoy in the same country we call home. A country built on the backs of our ancestors. And yet, here we are hundreds of years later still feeling the sting of the master’s whip on our backs. How can this be? Still, after all that’s been done to make this country a better place despite our shameful past.
Dear Philando, your death has broken my heart in so many pieces that I fear I can never pull them back together. Where do we go from here? Who’s next? What else can be done to change the blatant and systemic racism that plagues this land of ours? How many more hymns can one sing? We Shall Overcome has lost its tune as its purpose has fallen on hateful bigoted ears that refuse to see you, me… Us. “Who Is Next?” is a real slogan felt by a people tired of the targets on their backs. This country, built on the backs of slave labor is being choked to death by the good ol’ boys on capitol hill and all those who subscribe to their way of thinking and living. This includes the powerful NRA whose silence is deafening. And, Wall Street doesn’t see us either because to them we represent numbers to be calculated for financial projections and worth. And, what is an American life worth? It depends on what you look like and where you come from despite how the odds have been stacked against you since the beginning of America.
Trevor Noah hit the nail on the head when he called out the NRA for their silence on the killing of an American upholding his Second Amendment right. Using their own rhetoric, this issue lands squarely in their lap of gun toting luxury. They should be up in arms at this senseless killing and see it as an all-out attack against all Americans united against tyranny.
Americans are armed to the teeth. We love our guns and will fight tooth and nail to protect the right to arm and defend ourselves. And, these days, many are so obsessed with the gun rights issue that they’ve carried their automatic weapons to fast food joints and openly carried them in other public places. Some have been bold enough to openly carry their automatic weapons to a police station. Nonetheless, the question remains; where is the NRA? I dare to say, the organizations silence does speak. It says what black people in this country have lived with as a chain around their necks for hundreds of years. Their silence speaks to the blatant racism black Americans still live with. Their silence whispers like a dog whistle in the wind saying black people don’t matter. We don’t exist equally. Black people are only deserving of second class citizenship. The Second Amendment is meant to protect white Americans and the privilege they’ve become accustomed to. Even though that privilege was born on the backs of the black slaves that built this great country.
Black people being terrorized and discriminated against isn’t new. The method in shining a light on these injustices is what’s exposing the underbelly of a humanity I don’t understand or accept. One Nation Under God must mean more than just a sound bite. It must be real if Americans want to avoid an increasingly divided nation edging towards a cliff.
Land of the free, home of the brave? In the words of the great orator and Civil Rights icon James Baldwin: I don’t believe what you say because I see what you do.
Technology is the medium responsible for wiping away the stain that covers this great American motto as it shines a light on the blatant injustices committed against a group of people in their own country. We are simply seeing more of what many black people have become accustomed to. And, it’s going to take all of us that believe in a sense and understanding of humanity to continue to fight to change our racist culture. It’s time to vote like your life depends on it, because it does.
Dear Philando, watching your callous murder on video makes it all too clear that the words that describe what it means to be an American is lip service to those not lucky enough to be born white, or have a badge that protects them when they commit crimes against humanity. This, even though myself, like other black people, love all of my blackness, my culture and human design. When I look in the mirror I don’t see what the hateful bigoted among us see. I see life, beauty, culture and all that is good in this world. Why can’t they see what I see in myself and in those that make up my culture and identity? Why didn’t officer Jeronimo Yanez see you…? This is my struggle…as I wait for the next black body to fall.