I can’t sleep tonight.
I can’t sleep because a man I don’t know, a man named Philando Castile, was shot to death by a police officer on a routine traffic stop. He had a broken brake light. He was black and he was killed by an officer sworn to serve and protect him, killed like over a hundred other black people since January.
He’s dead because he didn’t fix his taillight.
My taillight has been out for three months. I keep meaning to get around to fixing it. I haven’t been pulled over.
He’s dead because he was carrying a legal firearm, which he announced to the officer.
I’ll be interested to hear what the NRA has to say about that. A man dead for exercising his second amendment rights.
He’s dead because he was black.
And blackness creates fear in this culture. We’ve been told black is evil. Black is death, is crime is fear is poverty is sickness is gangs is thugs is dangerous.
I watched the video. It wasn’t easy. I watched it because I believe to speak truth to our culture, to speak truth to one another, to speak truth to power we first have to know what is true. We can’t blink. We can’t look away. We have to see injustice to destroy injustice. We have to speak against it, stand against it, fight against it.
In the days to come I know some of my majority culture friends will be arguing on social media about how “if you just do what you’re told you’ll be fine.” Or it was understandable what happened, the officer was scared, the guy moved his hands, and on and on as we try to fit this terrible tragedy into our world views, into our worldview that tells us that this is a safe country, a just country, a place that is fair and anyone can achieve the American dream.
If I see you writing that on your facebook wall, I’ll ask you one question: Was this just?
Pile on all the hypotheticals you want. Make some up. What if he was speeding? What if he stole some cigarettes? What if had an arrest warrant or was in a gang? Would it be just then?
WAS THIS JUST?
No. Whatever happened, we can all agree, this was not justice for Philando Castile. We live in a culture that is unjust to people of color. Don’t close your eyes or look away. This is true.
It’s unjust to a lot of other people, too. Unjust not just to African Americans but to many different people of color. Unjust to the poor. Unjust to people of differing sexual orientations. Unjust to the unborn. Unjust to immigrants, unjust to people of unfamiliar religions. Unjust to women.
But we know this already. Injustice isn’t something new here in these United States. We can mourn and cry together and work to change things but I can’t imagine many of think justice is coming here and now. One far off day, maybe, but not today.
So it’s not the injustice of it all that’s keeping me awake. It’s the little girl. It’s the little girl who broke my heart.
In that video — and I understand if you don’t watch it, it’s horrible — after Philando’s girlfriend is handcuffed, his girlfriend begins to wail and cry. Her boyfriend had just bled out. He was shot multiple times in the arm and bled to death in the driver’s seat.
And her little girl was in the back seat.
When it’s clear Philandro is gone, his girlfriend starts to wail and scream.
And her little girl says, “It’s okay, I’m right here with you.” Her little girl. I don’t know how old, but one news source says four years old. She just saw a man shot to death, her mom is crying and screaming and she says, “It’s okay, I’m right here with you.”
Oh, Lord. Oh, Lord, how can this be the place we have come to?
I can’t even say what that little girl said. “It’s okay, I’m right here with you.”
I can’t say that it’s okay. It’s not okay. We have a long way to okay.
But I’m with you.
It’s not okay but I’m with you. We can change this together, I know we can.
Rest in peace, Philando Castile. Blessings on your family and friends.