every man is a
piece of the continent,
a part of the main;
if a clod be washed
away by the sea, Europe is the less,
as well as if a promontory were,
as well as any manner of thy friends
or of thine own were;
any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send
to know for whom the bell tolls;
it tolls for thee.
– John Donne, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions Meditation XVII
This week saw the police murder father of five children Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana not long before school lunch supervisor and student mentor Philando Castile was murdered by a policeman near St. Paul, Minnesota.
New York Times writer Michael Eric Dyson offers a sizzling condemnation of white people for failing to hold brutal police accountable for killing people of color. Because ultimately, they don’t want to see that their greed for privilege has created and supports the social environment in which it is OK for this to happen. What a read:
You cannot know what terror we live in. You make us afraid to walk the streets, for at any moment, a blue-clad officer with a gun could swoop down on us to snatch our lives from us and say that it was because we were selling cigarettes, or compact discs, or breathing too much for your comfort, or speaking too abrasively for your taste. Or running, or standing still, or talking back, or being silent, or doing as you say, or not doing as you say fast enough…
You do not condemn these cops; to do so, you would have to condemn the culture that produced them — the same culture that produced you. Black people will continue to die at the hands of cops as long as we deny that whiteness can be more important in explaining those cops’ behavior than the dangerous circumstances they face.
The NY Times Reports on the President’s response:
An emotional President Obama declared on Thursday that “all Americans should be troubled” by fatal police shootings this week of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota, saying that they were ”symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system.”
Speaking in Warsaw, and citing statistics that showed that blacks were far more likely to be arrested and shot by police, Mr. Obama asked Americans to try to understand that many people in the country think they are being treated unfairly.
“When incidents like this occur, there’s a big chunk of our fellow citizenry that feels as if, because of the color of their skin, they are not being treated the same,” he said. “And that hurts. That should trouble all of us.”
— Ana Marie Cox (@anamariecox) July 7, 2016
Mr. Castile was an inspirational role model and mentor to the many children he fed every day as a school cafeteria supervisor. The NY Times quotes Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton overtly referenced racism in his comments about Castile’s murder:
Joining with the Minneapolis N.A.A.C.P. at a news conference, Gov. Mark Dayton said “we’re shocked and horrified” by the killing of a black man by a police officer on Wednesday … The shooting fit a longstanding pattern of disparate, unfair and even violent treatment of black people…
“Would this have happened if the driver were white, if the passengers were white?” [he] asked at a news conference. “I don’t think it would have.”
He said he had heard from many black people, including some in positions of authority, about “how they’ve been pulled over, singled out,” in a way that white people would not have. “I’ve been told by very respectable African-American leaders that they understand how this dynamic goes on.”
#WeAreLess for their loss
Friend Helen Tinsley, the niece of a former Englewood NJ Police Captain adds her own personal story of police misconduct to the narrative:
I can totally relate to the police murder of Alton Sterling because it could have easily been me and my family! On an August night in 2000 at 3:00am , I was driving my 21 year old daughter & my sister & brother from Englewood to the Pocono’s to get to our father who had collapsed and was unconscious & awaiting an ambulance! As we passed Wharton, NJ we were pulled over by 7 cop cars from multiple towns – yes 7 cop cars! We had to get out of the car one at a time with ALL 7 cops guns drawn on us !! They were all screaming different directives while they made us walk towards them, and lay on the street in the pouring rain, while they handcuffed us behind our backs on the ground with their guns pointed at our heads and upper body at close range! (I still feel that fear/trauma/anxiety every time a cop car gets behind me)!!! They dragged us handcuffed to the police car & kept us for hours without telling us anything! Finally they had me sign a search warrant (which I quickly agreed to so we could get to my father). They searched my car – of course found NOTHING – then took us to the police station & photographed us & continued to detain us! Our beloved father had suffered a massive heart attack and died while we were in police custody! This was all supposedly a mistaken identity! We were released after a number of key phone calls were made to them! That is only 1 example!!! I could go on with all the racial profiling & “driving while Black” police stops I deal with driving all over remote parts of NJ for work- or the abuse my sons have suffered from cops… But my point – I know trauma up close and personal – unfortunately like too many of you! And I can not sit around and chit-chat or crack jokes at work while my people are being murdered while we are grinding & fighting for our survival! I will not be quiet! I am not the one!!! Justice or else!