In the wake of the Philando Castile and Alton Sterling shootings, life as we know it has gone backwards. This is not the America that many of us want our children to know and relate to, yet the Castile and Sterling shootings leave us little choice but to have conversations with our kids. What should I as a black man say to my children?
That is just one of the questions that I am left with in the wake of the Philando Castile and Alton Sterling shootings. Both shootings offer two different messages, mixed messages in fact.
The first message is to not assault or assassinate police officers. It justifies the narrative that we will present a threat. The despicable actions which took place in the Dallas shootings does nothing in repairing the communities that are broken. It only tears us apart.
The next message is to never fight, or argue with officers of the law. Do not resist. It can lead to your demise as we have learned from Alton Sterling and countless others. I must remind my children that even if you know the law and have a clear understanding of your rights, speaking out on your civic liberties can result in death. What they see all the time, the true interpretation of the rules, they do not necessarily apply to them because they come across as threatening. Asking police officers what you were pulled over for comes across as threatening when you are a black person.
Some may dispute this and deem it as non-factual. Explain why in the recent shootings of young black men and women, most of the alleged crimes being committed are misdemeanor offenses and traffic stops. No one should ever have to die for selling loose cigarettes and bootleg music (courtesy of the Washington Post) as Eric Garner and Alton Sterling did. The question is raised why were they not working regular wage jobs. The ignored answer is jobs are not plentiful once you have a criminal record as a minority.
Jobs are not plentiful for minorities without a criminal background. Higher education is no longer affordable. And while it is the norm to go to college, the idea of long-term debt is not flattering to most people who fear that their education is not enough to land a top job in their choice of careers.
This leaves fewer options at employment and fewer minorities in the position where they can hire other minorities. It honestly takes too long to get to the top of the mountain, and if you are a minority, your work is twice as hard. Many adopt a hustle, and those who do not, those who are lucky to land employment adopt an inferiority complex.
Should I tell my children to keep climbing that mountain, realizing how hard it is to get there? Most of us never get anywhere near the halfway point of the top. That is due to the hiccups that life presents to us regularly. For Philando Castile, it is likely that he was nearing his halfway mark before he was shot to death.
Philando Castile obeyed the rules. He obeyed the commands of the police officers who pulled him over, for all things a busted taillight. Once the officers were informed that Castile had a license to carry a concealed weapon, they should have been put at ease. If Philando Castile was of a race whom the officers could identify with, panic would not have existed. Proper judgement would have been used and Castile would have been free to go with a warning to get the cover to his taillight fixed.
Because Philando Castile legally obtained a firearm, that does not make him a threat. It makes him a person who, like many others, some who look like him and others who do not want to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights. It is the same 2nd Amendment rights which people rally to hold onto on a daily basis. And it should not matter which color of skin you bear.
Should I tell my children that by not resisting, you can still be killed by officers who took an oath to serve and protect them? That is what happened Philando Castile.
I wish that I can share with my children how afraid I am. How I fear for my life and theirs. How I cannot fully protect them even when they follow the rules. Those rules which should apply to all, yet they do not.
I wish that I can explain to them that while all lives matter, we must focus on the lives of our own. As a black man I am always asked to assimilate or deny that of which I am in order fit in a society where there are still people who refuse to accept me. My culture and history is stripped down to the bare minimums. As a black man, when I choose to love myself, I cannot do so without the inclusion of others. No one else is asked of this.
I mourn the death of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling who died at the hands of police officers. I am then told of the black on black crime that ruins my community more so than the police who are videotaped killing black men and women. There is a problem with black on black crime. As the opportunities for employment and education are diminished in the black community, crime has risen. That does not mean we devalue ourselves. It is the opposite. We celebrate employment and higher education because it is becoming extinct in our neighborhoods. Those which are second nature to most people, are celebratory accomplishments in the black community. Yet, we all are afraid.
We are afraid because nowhere are we safe. Our community houses those who will take down anyone who is inspired to climb. That includes the citizens and the police officers who patrol our streets.
What do I tell my children when the one bit of solitude we are supposed to have are also a constant in our continued demise? This is where I am as a black man in the wake of the Philando Castile and Alton Sterling shootings.
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