Friday, July 8, 2016

We are angry and fearful

My thoughts about the shooting deaths of two black men--Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castille in Minnesota--during separate police actions this week no doubt echo those of millions of outraged African Americans.

Graphic cell phone images of bullets devastating their bodies brought the horror home in a way that verbal accounts could not.

We are angry and fearful.

We envision our sons, fathers, grandsons, nephews, brothers, uncles or cousins writhing in pain or dying on some dirty, urban street; their lives instantly exposed to the harsh spotlight of public scrutiny.

Despite national protests, outcries for justice, or family pleas for action, most African Americans have little faith or expectation that the officers involved will suffer any significant legal consequences.

While white Americans are horrified by random mass shootings, they seem complacent about the serial deaths of young black men at the hands of police.

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton was the lone public official--black or white--who spoke frankly about the incident at a press conference yesterday:

"Would this have happened if ... the driver and passenger were white?...I don't think it would've. So I'm forced to confront and I think all of us in Minnesota are forced to confront that this kind of racism exists."
Will these shootings promote serious examination (or re-thinking) of police response tactics? Will white Americans ever own up to the racism that infects every aspect of life for African Americans?

Frankly speaking, organized social and political action to address long-standing issues (i.e. mass incarceration, high unemployment among black youth, disparate health outcomes) will save more black lives than impromptu street protests.

We know another shooting involving police officers and black men (and women) is likely.

In the meantime, let us prod elected officials into action and raise awareness among white Americans that this is not a black issue; it is an American issue.  

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