I’ve been writing this blog for close to 4 years. Over the past couple, my breaks have been more frequent, and often longer than they were initially. Part of me scolds myself, I should make more of an effort, but for the most part, I’m ok with it. Everything evolves, even a little drop in the cyberocean blog. And some of my slowdown has been specific, intentional. If you follow Mrs Fringe, you know I can be, umm, vehement. Excitable. Loud. Again, I’m ok with this. I yam who I yam and all that shit. But I don’t want to be reactionary. Obviously I don’t mean reactionary in the right-wing sense of the word, but in terms of just vomiting emotions through the keyboard about the issue or horror of the day without reason and perspective. A bit light on facts is okay, I’m not a journalist, I’ll provide links, do your research if you want to know more–but if I’m going to write about anything outside of my immediate four walls, there has to be some objectivity, even given the (more than safe) assumption that I’m always going to slant left.
I know some hear the phrase “with intent” and associate it with police procedurals and criminal charges. In my mind, “with intent” involves the choices we make about how to live our lives, what we’re working towards and who we want to be, as opposed to floating aimlessly or just scrambling to get by. I want my children to live their lives with intent.
So when Alton Sterling was shot in Baton Rouge three days ago, I didn’t immediately plant myself in front of the keyboard to yell about police brutality. I wanted to process what I was hearing first, get a few more facts. For some reason, despite the first, brief video all over the internet that showed him being shot, every link I clicked would freeze or not work at all, which helped with my intent to slow down and find out more information. I’ll be honest, after so many well publicized police shootings, my instinct was to assume he was shot because he was black. Even when I heard he had a gun. How many times have we seen this story play out? “He had a gun, I was in fear for my life…” Then video emerges–or eyewitnesses, videos being conveniently lost or malfunctioned–and it turns out the gun was a wallet, or a toy, or non-existent, or the suspect was shot in the back because he was running (or walking) while black. Then I read about a gang affiliation. Hmm, ok, if he was known to local police as gang affiliated and thought to be carrying a gun, maybe a step back is in order before screaming injustice. But our police are not supposed to act as judge, juries, and executioners–even if this was a bad guy, they aren’t supposed to decide his life is not worthwhile. Then the second, longer video emerged and I watched it. WTF? Does everyone in our country think we’re living inside a movie set? Maybe there was a gun in his pocket, but he was already pinned on the ground, already shot. Yes, his arm moved, but this isn’t an freaking blockbuster, and whatever Alton Sterling was, he wasn’t an action hero. He wasn’t in any condition to pull a gun out of his pocket, take aim, and shoot the police officers who were holding him down. Naturally, they shot him again.
I want to say, at least they had already called for an ambulance. I want to say how glad I am that Baton Rouge doesn’t seem to have hesitated or made an effort to block a federal investigation. But to hold those up as measures of progress is a smokescreen to divert focus from the fact that the police shot and killed a man they already had controlled and subdued.
Before I could process and begin drafting a post about this, Philandro Castile was shot during a routine traffic stop in Minnesota. Surprise! He was a black man. (If I’m going to be honest and disclose my own bias here, it’s that as a stereotypical New Yorker, I’m not sure I knew there were people of color living in Minnesota.) This horror of an incident couldn’t be worse. I don’t know how anyone can justify this shooting. Philandro Castile was in his car with his girlfriend and young daughter, no criminal history, worked at a Montessori school, for Pete’s sake. Montessori, the model of education based on respect, discovery, and inclusion. He was carrying a gun, for which he had a license, and disclosed this information to the police officer, the way he was supposed to. For doing the right thing, following the steps of the law and reaching for his license when asked for it, he was shot–four bullets–and killed. His girlfriend remained calm and live streamed the incident, and was arrested for it.
What could I possibly say about this incident that hasn’t been said and ignored ad infinitum in regards to the many, many police shootings in America? What could I possibly say that would be helpful to the black community, what would make sense to those who want to pretend we don’t have a huge problem in our police forces nationwide?
Protests occurred all over our country last night. Excellent. But with protests, there’s always fear. Will the protestors remain peaceful? Will the police? This next piece of news made me realize that my heart can, in fact, be more broken than it already was. I woke during the night to find Husband watching news reports of snipers in Dallas, Texas, who killed five police officers and injured several more. You know the way I said I want to have facts before speaking out? I don’t need the specifics here, these were snipers, no confusion, no other way to interpret what happened. This is wrong. It’s reactionary, it defies logic, it does nothing but inflame an already combustible situation. The same as I do not believe the answer to our problem with gun violence is more guns, I do not believe the answer to police violence is violence against the police. Anger and protests are justified, frustration is justified, murder is not. The same as I’m certain Philandro Castile was murdered, the same as it’s looking like Anton Sterling was murdered, the police officers last night were murdered.
I am afraid. I’m afraid for what comes next on a societal scale, I’m afraid on a personal scale. I’m afraid for my friends and family members, living their lives with intent, taking care of themselves, their families, their communities. Many of these friends and family members have brown skin and/or latino names. We, as a society, are living in fear. As a nation that loves to bluster about freedom, strength, and power, we should be better than this. The past week has been an American nightmare, it’s time for us to wake up, and live all of our lives, pass laws, make decisions, revamp and retrain our police forces, and move forward with intent and integrity.