Yesterday, one day after the police killing of Alton Sterling, a Black woman named Lavish Reynolds began broadcasting live on Facebook moments after her boyfriend, a Black man named Philando Castile, had been shot multiple times by police in suburban St. Paul, Minnesota.
At the Washington Post, Michael E. Miller and Wesley Lowery have compiled everything we know so far about the shooting. The link includes the video of the aftermath of the shooting, which I strongly urge caution in viewing and even more so in sharing. Again: It's important the video exists; it is not required for anyone to watch it nor to share it, especially if you are sharing it in a place where it might be triggering for people who are reeling from another deadly incident of police brutality against a Black citizen.
The shooting happened following a traffic stop for a broken tail light. The officer ordered Castile out of the car and, as recounted by Reynolds, was shot when he went to retrieve his ID, as requested by the officer.
In the video, Reynolds says Castile was legally licensed to carry a firearm and was reaching for his identification when the officer opened fire.Castile sits bleeding and catastrophically wounded in the car as officers order Reynolds out of the car, handcuff her, and put her in police cruiser. Eventually, Castile is brought to the hospital, where he died.
"He let the officer know that he had a firearm and he was reaching for his wallet and the officer just shot him in his arm," she says.
As Castile moans and appears to lose consciousness, the officer can be heard in the background shouting expletives in apparent frustration.
"Mam, keep your hands where they are," the officer shouts at Reynolds. "I told him not to reach for it! I told him to get his hands up."
"You told him to get his ID, sir, his driver's license," Reynolds responds. "Oh my god. Please don't tell me he's dead. Please don't tell me my boyfriend just went like that."
My condolences to Reynolds' family, friends, and immediate community—and to Black people in the broader community who may once again be left feeling unsafe and devalued by their communities and their country. I take up space in solidarity with people who are angry and people who are grieving. I am angry and grieving with you.
A few jumbled thoughts I am having in this moment:
1. Again, we are reminded that the Second Amendment only applies to white people. And it's important to understand that this is by design: The very origins of the Second Amendment are racist.
2. Again, this started with a municipal violation. Over-policing by way of municipal violations is a dynamic from which the vast majority of white USians are insulated, because white supremacy, racial privilege, and segregation explicitly act in service to insulate us from precisely this reality: The brutal policing of black USians for municipal violations, using minor infractions to generate fines and police records that have lasting impact on black lives and communities. I will again recommend [CN: video autoplays at link] this segment by John Oliver on municipal violations.
3. Again, I will recommend this August 2015 piece by Charles M. Blow: "Police Abuse Is a Form of Terror: The very ubiquity of police officers and the power they possess means that the questionable killing in which they are involved creates a terror that rolls in like a fog, filling every low place. It produces ambient, radiant fear. It is the lurking unpredictability of it. It is the any- and everywhere-ness of it."
4. I want to recognize the grace and presence of mind and bravery of Lavish Reynolds, who thought to turn on her camera and live broadcast the murder of Philando Castile. She should never have been obliged to be graceful under the most violent circumstances, never have been obliged to have such presence of mind in a moment of unfathomable fear, never have been obliged to be brave when she was just living her life, with her boyfriend and child, until a violent agent of the state intervened. It is not lost on me that her composure was necessitated to safe her own life, and I am incandescently angry that she was put in such a position.
This is my 260th entry in the police brutality label. I am outraged and I am grief-stricken. #BlackLivesMatter is a statement of fact, but it is also, by necessity of violent white supremacy, a plea.
To my fellow white people, I beg you: This is a moment to listen to Black people. And it is a moment in which we are obliged to speak to one another. To challenge each other. To communicate, unequivocally, that we have a zero tolerance policy on racism and white supremacy and state-sanctioned violence against Black citizens. To take the time, when we see opportunities and openings, to educate other white people, or at least give it a good goddamn try. To step up.
This is not the time (it never is) to be a bully under the guise of being an ally. To tone police Black people. To mount bitter complaints about #BlackLivesMatter because "all lives matter." To distance ourselves from white privilege, or to pretend that saying, "I would never behave that way" is a statement of solidarity and not a selfish petition to be recognized as "one of the Good Ones."
To paraphrase an old post, this is the time to stop obliging Black people to reassure you that you're one of the Good Ones, and just start being one of them.
This is the time for white people who agree that #BlackLivesMatter to make sure it is not just a statement of fact, but an action we take every day. Please.