Do you remember the horrible video that was trending on the internet showing the aftermath of Philando Castile’s death? The week all of that happened, was the week that I started to feel alone. Because I couldn’t quit crying over a traffic stop turned murder.
I started reminding Kevin to be safe on the road and checking to make sure he made it to work. I started looking at my son and trying to imagine him as a man that the world would look at differently than I do. But the statuses I read on Facebook, many from people we know and love, didn’t reflect that same kind of upset. Instead, these were the general (and frequently repeated) ideas that I saw:
- The media just creates racism to separate us. Don’t feed into it and it will go away.
- Philando Castile probably didn’t have a permit to carry.
- IF he did in fact have a permit, he probably did something stupid like move abruptly or reach for it.
- Philando Castile was wanted for a robbery and if you don’t commit crimes, you have nothing to worry about.
Fast forward to present day.
The DA announces that charges will be filed against the officer. After reviewing the full dash cam video, he refutes every single assumption made about Philando Castile. He did have a permit. He did inform the officer correctly. He did keep a calm voice and made no abrupt movements. He was profiled by the officer, pulled over for having a wide set nose which the officer claimed matched a suspect in a robbery. He was NOT involved in a robbery. He was just black.
And guess what? My Facebook feed is silent. The total opposite of the day that video went viral. Make no mistake about it- had the investigation revealed Philando reached for a gun or threatened the officer or was involved in a robbery, my feed would have blown up with comments. It’s happened before.
As long as you believe racism isn’t “a thing” anymore
As long as you are silent when implicit bias happens
As long as you believe that there aren’t people of color who are suffering or that it’s not your job to care or that if people would comply we wouldn’t have problems
NOTHING will change.
Can media coverage inflame things? Sure. But you guys- actual real people are sharing their stories. Real life discrimination is happening and you aren’t listening. Mostly because you aren’t even stopping to ask.
And so for now, there is a large community of people who will continue to imply with actions or words (or maybe with lack of action and silence) one strong belief- that black bodies are dangerous.
It hurts me to type that sentence out. But you can’t tell me it’s not true.
For as long as white women clutch their purses when my husband walks by them, it’s true. For as long as he is watched in stores, it’s true. When he gets pulled over for forgetting to use his turn signal in a turn lane and the officer wants to look in his vehicle with a flashlight and asks why he’s in the area (not expecting he would actually live here) it’s true. When the doctor is sharing the importance that he stay on top of his asthma but feels the need to strongly emphasize that asthma causes death in “inner city people” it’s true. (We live in the suburbs-but whatever.) When guests at his place of business are (unpleasantly) surprised that he’s the one who runs the building, it’s true.
And he just deals. He lets go of the anger and prays for peace over and over again. He rises above. But I resent that he has to do that.
I resent that Kevin is a father, that he nurtures babies in crisis that are not his own, that he provides well for us financially and loves Jesus and works hard and loves to sing along to Journey or Prince and studies spelling words with the kids no matter how tired he is- but to people who don’t know him-he’s reduced to being just a black body. And that underlying belief is there- that black bodies are dangerous to people. So they will fear him or be suspicious of him or assume to know something about him.
And what hurts most is that if you DO know him, you might view him as the exception to your rules. Rules that you may not even admit out loud that you’ve made. Rules you may not even realize you’ve made.
Maybe the media does make things worse. But maybe just because you don’t personally know people who are being discriminated against because of the color of their skin, it doesn’t mean racism is being made up out of thin air because someone wants attention or is playing the victim or is causing division. I got permission from my husband to talk about him today. But I know lots of other stories from lots of other people. Some of those stories much, much worse than anything my husband has experienced. Not media stories…real living and breathing people. And it doesn’t go away just because you ignore it or refuse to acknowledge it. Silence makes us complicit. So I will stop being silent.