Tbh I don’t feel like doing a Cool Stuff Sunday today, because this week has been so utterly shitty around the world. Australia is a full week into controlled anarchy (because we’re all too lazy to actually act up while our government sorts itself the fuck out) (EDIT: as of eight hours ago, we’re still lead by the fucking bigots of the Coalition, great); nearly 300 people were killed in the truck bomb explosion in Baghdad; and in the space of a day, American police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Falcon Heights, Minnesota killed their 122nd and 123rd black person this year. It’s motherfuckin’ July.
First was Alton Sterling, shot at point blank range while being questioned about selling CDs on the street. Not 24 hours later, I watched a Facebook Live video taken seconds after the shooting of Philando Castile, who was reaching for his license as requested by the officer who then shot him.
When I clicked play on the video of Philando Castile, I had no idea what I was about to watch. I had prepared myself and decided to watch the footage of Alton Sterling’s murder, and that was not what I saw. The bloody, unconscious Castile is slumped in the driver’s seat with a gun trained on him from the outside by the man who fired the bullets. The passenger, Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond, immediately describes the scene and what has happened to her boyfriend. She pleads with God and with the officer by the driver’s door to tell her that the father of her four-year-old girl (who is still in the back seat of the car–a witness to the shooting) isn’t dead. She is not allowed to touch him. She is not allowed to console her daughter.
The video lasted over 8 minutes, and in that time, no medical assistance is provided to the injured, dying, Castile by law enforcement. When the video’s picture is obscured by another officer, you can hear the one who fired his weapon yelling ‘fuck’ in the background, twice, amidst sirens of the ambulances arriving too late. The moment Diamond has her phone back again, she is being detained in the back of a police car with her daughter, who is trying to console a heartbroken widow the only way she knows how:
“It’s okay Mama, I’m here with you.”
How much trauma are we going to allow ourselves to endure? When a person takes the life of another person, they also take away the lives of those the deceased touched. They take away their own. How many lives to we have to take away before we realise that this is a disease inside a disease inside a disease. It is so deep in our muscle memory now to expect black deaths by white cops in America every day. Every day. Tell me how this has become normal, expected, accepted. This is not acceptable.
Philando Castile is the one hundred and twenty-third man to be killed by law enforcement in 2016. So let’s get down to the maths, because if we are halfway through this year and grieving 123 people, are you telling me we have another 123+ to go, this year alone? Or are we going to do something about it? The systemic undercurrent of hate running deep in America’s bloodlines is frightening–I live on the other side of the world and I am frightened by it. But healing begins when we talk about what has happened and that it’s wrong. It begins when those in charge accept that there is a significant wound in the heart of the system that is bound to Protect and to Serve. It begins when the bias so thoroughly ingrained in the social ecosystem is realigned and reshaped. It begins when peaceful protests don’t end in innocent people–both officers and civilians–dying in the streets when all we want is to talk about this descent into madness and the ways we can clamber out of it again.
What do we talk about when we talk about love? How do we grieve when we grieve about love? This week, this year, these last five even, have been self-immolating. Men and women are killing themselves on Nauru in detention centres, babies are being taken from hospitals in the night, bombs and guns and people are taking away the only thing we’ve ever truly been given. Our lives somehow feel like they aren’t our own anymore.
If you are not grieving, if you are not heartsick over the turmoil going on all around us, then you are not paying attention.