Last Tuesday, 37 year-old Alton Sterling, a black male, was shot point blank by two Baton Rouge police officers while being pinned to the ground. Twenty-four hours later, Philando Castile, also a black male, was shot to death by police during a routine traffic stop. The aftermath of the shooting was live streamed on Facebook by Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond “Lavish” Reynolds, who was a passenger (along with her 4 year-old daughter) in the car when Castile was killed.
On Thursday night, five police officers were killed when a shooter ambushed a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas, Texas. Twelve officers and two civilians were also injured.
To say the country just ended a bad week would be one hell of an understatement.
The Dallas shooter was quickly identified as Micah Xavier Johnson. Johnson, a 25 year-old African American army reserve veteran, was killed by a police-operated robot carrying an explosive device after he cornered himself in a parking garage.
So much for the NRA’s “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun” bullshit.
“He said he was upset about the recent police shootings. The suspect said he was upset at white people. The suspect stated he wanted to kill white people, especially white officers,” Dallas Police Chief David Brown told the press, repeating an exchange between Johnson and a police negotiator.
Determined by multiple reports to be a lone wolf attacker, Johnson targeted officers belonging to what could be considered one of the nation’s most progressive police departments.
Under Chief Brown, the Dallas Police Department has implemented many reforms that have strengthened the department and its relationship with the communities it serves.
In an effort to “increase transparency, officer accountability, and improve officer safety” Chief Brown has made a database available to the public of all officer-involved shootings.
The Dallas PD also works closely with the National Alliance on Mental Illness to better improve officers’ training in dealing with individuals with mental illness.
Last year, The Dallas Morning News reported excessive-force complaints dropped a staggering 64% from 2009 to 2014. Brown took office in 2010.
“It’s not a job for the warrior mentality,” Chief Brown told the Dallas Observer in 2015 on the subject of policing. “Instead, we are guardians. We’re not at war with our communities. It’s just the opposite.”
It’s easy to see Chief Brown’s perspective shared in the field by those under his command. Prior to Thursday’s mass shooting, uniformed officers were taking pictures with members of the Black Lives Matter protesters.
Although the Dallas PD respected and bravely protected the organization Thursday night, conservative pundits and politicians quickly used the tragedy to once again attack the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Blaze’s (Glenn Beck’s site) Tomi Lahren was possibly applying for a cabinet position in a Trump administration when she tweeted:
“Meet the new KKK, they call themselves “Black Lives Matter” but make no mistake their goals are far from equality.”
Lahren eventually deleted her tweet, but not before her batshit crazy thought process was screen-grabbed for eternity.
Matt Drudge’s Drudge Report went with this classy headline as the Dallas tragedy unfolded:
Former Republican Illinois Representative Joe Walsh upped the ante when he threatened President Obama in his Twitter declaration of war attack against Black Lives Matter:
“This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you.”
I think the only thing about which we can be certain in Joe Walsh’s “real America” is that it doesn’t have a high minority population.
The Dallas shooter not only wasn’t associated with Black Lives Matter, he was “upset” with the BLM movement, according to police.
“This is a tragedy – both for those who have been impacted by yesterday’s attack and for our democracy. There are some who would use these events to stifle a movement for change and quicken the demise of a vibrant discourse on the human rights of Black Americans. We should reject all of this,” Black Lives Matter responded in a statement to the Dallas shooting.
At no point has the Black Lives Matter movement advocated violence against law enforcement as a solution to the well documented bias in our criminal justice system that people of color face on a daily basis.
While the Dallas tragedy was quickly used as a smear campaign against BLM, the deaths of Sterling and Castile are reminders of why we need the organization.
According to Castile’s girlfriend Reynolds, after identifying himself as having a firearm and a permit to carry, Castile was shot multiple times as he reached for his ID in his wallet as requested by officer Jeronimo Yanez.
The nine-minute video filmed by Reynolds captures Philando Castile’s final moments as he dies in the driver’s seat wearing a now blood soaked white shirt.
Although I believe it should be required viewing for anyone discussing or hoping to better understand the issues Black Lives Matter is addressing, the video is a tough watch.
Reynolds remains calm as she narrates the situation to her Facebook viewers… the same can’t be said for the officer who killed Castile.
Panicked and yelling the word “fuck” multiple times after the shooting, Officer Yanez sounds as if he wouldn’t be able to handle a job at Starbucks, let alone a position requiring use of a firearm.
If we learn anything from the death of Philando Castile, it’s not just our training process for officers needs to be strengthened… so does our hiring process.
In a September 2015 entry discussing Black Lives Matter, I mentioned numerous policy solutions for which the movement advocates.
Under the Campaign Zero header, BLM activists have called for implicit racial bias testing for current and prospective officers. This is long overdue.
How do we guarantee these changes? We vote.
Discussing implicit bias, Democratic presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton has pledged $1 billion in her first budget to “fund the best training programs, support new research, and make this a national policing priority.”
Research and support mayoral, sheriff candidates and city council members who advocate for the changes voiced by Black Lives Matter.
Canvass or phone bank for your state senator or representative who have supported calls for criminal justice reform.
Commentators like Tomi Lahren and politicians like Joe Walsh and Iowa’s Steve King will continue their hateful rhetoric and attacks against Black Lives Matter, fearing a change of the status quo.
Let’s make sure we give it to them.
To make a donation to the families of the fallen officers of Dallas, Texas click here.
To make a donation to the family of Alton Sterling, click here.
To make a donation to the family of Philando Castile, click here.
Last week should be a call for the nation to push for more help for our returning veterans. Veterans more than any other group are suffering from mental health issues. Twenty – 20 – veterans take their lives each DAY – every 72 minutes every day a veteran takes their own life.