Please Listen to Stevante Clark

[Content Note: Police brutality; death; racism. Previously on the killing of Stephon Clark: One, Two, Three.]

When the police fatally shoot Black men and women (or anyone else), they end a life and ruin many others as a result.

That sounds like the most obvious thing in the world, and yet non-Black people, especially white people, are largely insulated from the reverberating devastation of police killings in Black communities.

That is: We insulate ourselves.

To state the self-evident, I have no idea what it feels like to be a Black person whose family member was killed by police.

I do understand, by virtue of the work I do, the fucked-up dynamic of being a marginalized person demanding change who is obliged to visibly model pain to convince privileged people that folks like me deserve the change we're requesting; to be expected to be publicly vulnerable, only to then be ridiculed as pathetically weak by ideological opponents and be dehumanized as imperviously strong by ideological allies.

So when I see a Black person who has been thrust into the role of activist because their relative or friend has been killed by police, when I see them public grieving, I can begin to imagine the toll it's taking, with all the expectations they are obliged to navigate. And I hate knowing they may feel like they have to grieve in a way that feels packaged for privileged people's consumption, as part of their advocacy.

And the very least white people can fucking do in response is pay attention — and then get to work advocating for the changes that need to be made. Like dismantling the way policing is done in the United States and starting over, because it is clearly irreparably broken.

All of that is preamble, my own desperate and imperfect plea for listening, to Stevante Clark, the brother of Stephon Clark, who was killed by police, who then lied about what happened.

Listen to Stevante and do something, even it is nothing more than sharing his words with people who may not encounter them otherwise; sharing them with an urgent request to hear him and then resolve to take some kind of action.
"They gunned him down like a dog," Stevante Clark said of the police shooting of his brother, Stephon. "They executed him."

Stevante was in the backseat of a car, his voice quivering. He stomped his feet 20 times — one for each bullet that police fired at his unarmed brother.

"Twenty times. That's like stepping on a roach ...And then stepping, stepping, stepping, stepping, stepping, stepping, stepping."

...Stephon, an unarmed 22-year-old father of two, was standing in his grandmother's backyard, holding only his iPhone when officers, who did not announce they were police, appeared in the dark, shouted at him to reveal his hands and quickly fired a round of bullets at him before he could respond.

His brother, Stevante, 25, has been thrust into the national spotlight and forced to navigate media, protests, lawyers, and donations while struggling through his own grief and anger.

"I shouldn't have to defend my brother. They should be proving their innocence," Stevante told the Guardian on Sunday night, during an interview in his friend's car. "I'm exhausted. I hate this. I hate my life."

...Stevante said he was tired of summarizing his brother's worth in a soundbite for the news. He also said he was fed up with reporters mentioning his brother's previous run-ins with the law and jail time, as if his past challenges justified his killing.

"Why aren't we talking about the police's mistakes?" he said. "My city is scared of police …I'm scared to live here. I don't feel safe."

... Stevante said he wanted the tragedy to spark change and hoped to build a library in his brother's honor while supporting other gun violence prevention efforts, such as breakfast programs and community centers.

Still, he said he did not think of himself as an "activist" or "leader" and struggled with the constant reminders of his brother's death — people stopping him on the street, calls from reporters, social media postings. He's avoided watching the police videos and many of the news reports.

It's hard to find relief, he said, noting that he was still unable to feel comfortable in his family's home where his brother died. "Where can you fucking go if you're not safe at grandma's house?"
Listen to everything Stevante is saying here. Listen to him tell you that he feels like his beloved brother was killed like a roach. Listen to him tell you that he doesn't want to have to defend his brother's humanity or summarize his worth for a soundbite. Listen to him tell you that he doesn't want to be an activist, that he is tired, that is scared, that he doesn't feel safe. Listen to him tell you that it's the police who need to be questioned — not him, not his family.

And then listen to him tell you this: "We're not going to get justice, because my brother's not coming back."

Once again I want to recommend this piece by Mariame Kaba, who urges us to understand that, even if these officers are indicted and even if they are convicted and even if they are sentenced, it will not truly be justice. Meaningful justice will only be achieved by dismantling the (in)justice system which is catastrophically contaminated by white supremacy.

Which is a daunting task to contemplate, but the enormity of the task before us shouldn't let us treat as justice what will be, at best, limited individual accountability in a comprehensively corrupt system.

Mychal Denzel Smith once wrote: "Justice for Renisha would have looked like Michael Brown being able to attend college. Justice for Trayvon would have looked like Renisha McBride getting the help she needed the night of her accident. Justice for Oscar Grant would have looked like Trayvon Martin making it home to finish watching the NBA All-Star game, Skittles and iced tea in tow. And so on, and so on. Justice should be the affirmation of our existence."

Real justice will be no more death.

That is not going to happen on its own. We all need to make ourselves a part of the colossal effort it will take to create this critical change.

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