Having a wallet, sleeping, carrying Skittles, blasting loud music, selling loose cigarettes, playing with a toy gun at age 12, shopping at Wal-Mart, failing to signal while driving – and now selling CDs outside a convenience store – can get a black person killed by police in America.
The recent death of Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was the 558th extrajudicial killing of an American this year by police, according to The Guardian US.
The numbers have been replayed in headlines and on television screens across the world. Blacks in America are disproportionately killed and targeted by police officers more than any other racial demographic.
Some might say, “Why do you have to talk about race?” But ask yourself why does it seem to be a reoccurring theme in the deaths of hundreds of individuals in this country? I will no longer feel uncomfortable calling it out. What we are witnessing is an uncontrolled, unjustified police killing of civilians.
If you cannot grieve or admit that something is inherently wrong with the current state of law enforcement when 558 people are killed without a trial, then we can’t be friends.
As a young black man in a major city like Philadelphia, the odds that I can be stopped and frisked and/or become a victim of a senseless execution by police skyrockets. It doesn’t matter the reason – there’s always one to be given. But what is problematic is the role to which everyday white Americans choose to look the other way, which makes this even worse.
Too often I see my social media timeline reflect a great diivide between those who speak out about these issues and those who don’t. Often, a vast majority of my white peers don’t say anything at all – and when they do, they often choose to play devil’s advocate or try to justify the killings with some arbitrary protocol to make them feel as though the world is fair.
Coincidentally, we seem to never have these debates when white people are killed unlawfully by police officers – which is rare in comparison. In fact, we live in a society where black people have to spend a great deal of time defending the dead while still mourning them.
The lack of consideration from white co-workers and peers during times like these reminds me of the real problem with race in this country – folks still don’t want to acknowledge it. They would rather misuse the term “racist” and attempt to dismiss the legitimate concerns of the distressed.
If you are white and you’re reading this, admitting there's a problem is the first step. It’s no longer up for debate – this is an institutional problem that is racially skewed. People are dying. Families are being torn apart from the trauma. The father, mother, sibling, child, and loved one of a fellow American is no longer alive to give their side of the story.
Now is not the time to ignore the harsh reality. It would be humane to acknowledge and empathize, while also hoping for justice.