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I’ve had a hard time talking about Alton Sterling today. As I’ve seen Facebook friends begging white people to speak up, I couldn’t. I started posts half a dozen times and I just felt like a complete hypocrite writing anything, because if I’d seen a man with a gun outside of a store, I would have called the police. So how can I criticize the police for how they responded?
I had to remind myself of everything that led up to that confrontation. Not just that day, not just that week, but in the entire histories of the three people directly involved. Why a black man in Louisiana would have felt that he needed a gun. Why the cops, who reportedly acted with aggression from the beginning and escalated the conflict quickly, would have responded that way. Why they would have felt justified. Why Mr. Sterling would have been terrified and struggling.
Why this happens over and over.
And most of all, I had to ask myself why Mr. Sterling having a gun somehow made his killing seem justified in my mind, when so many unarmed black men are killed by police anyway. Not having a gun doesn’t seem to matter.
White people wave guns around all the time and somehow get arrested, not killed. Hell, sometimes they don’t even get arrested. So the gun CAN’T be the variable that makes it OK inside my mind. It’s simply not OK.White people wave guns around and somehow get arrested (if that), not killed. #AltonSterling Click To Tweet
And that’s why we have to speak up. Because this keeps happening. Even when there are dashcams and police bodycams and cell phone videos and surveillance videos and witnesses. All of the things that are supposed to be helping. It’s still happening.
I feel like I should mention that I support the police, just to stave off criticism, because I know far too many people who posted about #BlueLivesMatter, truly showing that they didn’t understand what #BlackLivesMatter meant. But supporting the police isn’t really something significant when you’re not the threat. Of course I support the police. I’m not the one they’re going to feel threatened by. I’m not the one they’re going to try to kill.
I don’t know what the answer is, but I know that admitting our own biases and trying to be better is a start. Teaching our white children about privilege and prejudice is a start. Spreading the word when injustice happens is a start.