Thursday, July 07, 2016

"This Doesn't Happen to White People"

In the last 24 hours I've watched two different videos online that depict two separate incidences of a black man bleeding to death after being shot by police.

As you can imagine, both videos are extremely difficult to watch. Yet watch them I did as I don't want to turn away from the deadly and endemic violence inflicted on black men by law enforcement in the U.S.

The first video shows the shooting death of Alton Sterling (left), who was shot in the chest and killed by police in Baton Rouge, La. in an incident that's already being investigated by the Department of Justice.

And just last night here in the Twin Cities, Philando Castile, a 32-year-old cafeteria supervisor at JJ Hill Montessori School in St. Paul, died after being shot by police in the St. Paul suburb of Falcon Heights. Moments before being fatally shot, Castile had been pulled over in his car for having a broken taillight.

The immediate aftermath of Castile's shooting was video-recorded and live-streamed to Facebook by Castile's girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, as she sat in the car next to him. The image that opens this post is from this gut-wrenching video.

Reports The New York Times:

The graphic video from Minnesota showed Philando Castile, 32, who had been shot several times, slumping against the woman who was recording the scene. As she did so, her 4-year-old daughter sat in the back seat and an officer stood just outside the driver’s side window, still aiming his gun at the mortally wounded man at point-blank range.

The video is all the more shocking for the calm, clear narration of the woman, Diamond Reynolds, who can be heard saying that Mr. Castile had done nothing wrong, and the fact that she streamed it live on Facebook. On the video, Ms. Reynolds gives her account of what happened, saying again and again that Mr. Castile was just reaching for his driver’s license and registration — as the officer had requested — when the officer opened fire.

“Please, officer, don’t tell me that you just did this to him,” she said. “You shot four bullets into him, sir. He was just getting his license and registration, sir.”

Ms. Reynolds’s daughter appears several times in the video. Near the end of the 10-minute clip, as the two are sitting in the back of a police car and Ms. Reynolds becomes increasingly distraught, the girl comforts her mother. “It’s okay, Mommy,” she says. “It’s okay. I’m right here with you.”

Later this evening I'll be attending a march, rally and prayer vigil for Philando Castile at JJ Hill Elementary School in St. Paul.

For now I'll share the following reflection by Julie Kearns, one that came to my attention on Facebook earlier today. It sums up well my thoughts and feelings on yet another tragic shooting of a black man by police.

Phil Castile worked with kids at Saint Paul public schools. He was known by his young charges – and their grown-ups – for knowing first names, connecting effectively with students, and giving great fist bumps.

While seated in a car that had been pulled over for having a broken taillight earlier tonight, he was instructed to show the officer his ID.

He explained that he was licensed to legally carry a concealed weapon before reaching for his drivers license. He was subsequently shot four times by the officer who asked to see his ID.

This doesn't happen to white people.

His girlfriend, after witnessing the shooting, was ordered out of the car and onto her knees, and then handcuffed in front of her young daughter while her boyfriend bled out.

This also doesn't happen to white people.

Today, a white guy walked into a Target in Edina with a gun holstered below his armpit, presumably to protect himself while shopping, with no adverse effects (except a friend's covert documentary photograph).

This is just one simple way in which white people experience privilege: we don't wind up disproportionately dead for doing things that we should reasonably be able to do without getting shot at by local law enforcement (like be a passenger in someone's car – or play with a toy gun – or sell CDs outside a shop with the permission of the shop's owner).

We are the system, and the system is broken.

– Julie Kearns

NEXT: Remembering Philando Castile
and Demanding Abolition of the System
That Targets and Kills People of Color

Related Off-site Links:
Woman Streams Aftermath of Fatal Officer-involved Shooting in Falcon HeightsStar Tribune (July 7, 2016).
"Don't Tell Me He's Dead": Aftermath of Yet Another Fatal Police Shooting of Black Man Streamed Live – Nika Knight (Common Dreams, July 7, 2016).
"He Did Everything by the Law, and He Died by the Law": Family of Philando Castile Speaks Following His Death – Richard Perez-Pena and Jonah Engel Bromwich (The New York Times, July 7, 2016).
Philando Castile Shooting in Minnesota Leads Governor to Seek U.S. InvestigationCBS Minnesota (July 7, 2016).
Grieving – Greg Boyd (Re/, July 7, 2016).
Police Have Killed at Least 2,614 People Since Ferguson – German Lopez and Soo Oh (Vox, July 7, 2016).
Here Are Seven White People Who Pointed Guns at Cops and Didn't Get Killed – Tom Cahill (U.S. Uncut, July 7, 2016).
15 Things Your City Can Do Right Now to End Police Brutality – Zak Cheney Rice (Identities.Mic, July 1, 2016).
Alton Sterling Protesters Remind You What America Keeps Forgetting – Kim Bellware and David Lohr (The Huffington Post, July 6, 2016).
Advice for White Folks in the Wake of the Police Murder of a Black Person – Justin C. Cohen (, July 7, 2016).

UPDATES: Dispatch Audio From Castile Killing Reveals Cop Pulled Him Over for Having "Wide Nose" – Kazu HagaJay Syrmopoulos (The Free Thought Project, July 8, 2016).
No, Philando Castile Was NOT "Wanted for Armed Robbery" – Dan Evon (Snopes, July 9, 2016).
Minnesota Officer Was "Reacting to the Presence of a Gun," Lawyer Says – Mitch Smith (The New York Times, July 9, 2016).
The NRA's Internal Revolt Over Philando Castile – Brian Fung (The Washington Post, July 9, 2016).
Policing Isn't Working for Cops Either – Kazu Haga (Waging Nonviolence, July 9, 2016).
Officer Who Shot Castile Attended Controversial "Bulletproof Warrior" Training – Jennifer Bjorhus (Star Tribune, July 13, 2016).
Officer Charged in Castile Shooting – Jon Collins and Riham Feshir (MPR News, November 16, 2016).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Quote of the Day – March 31, 2016
Something to Think About – December 29, 2015
Quote of the Day – November 25, 2015
"We Are All One" – #Justice4Jamar and the 4th Precinct Occupation: Photos, Reflections and Links
An Update on #Justice4Jamar and the 4th Precinct Occupation
Rallying in Solidarity with Eric Garner and Other Victims of Police Brutality
"Say Her Name" Solidarity Action for Sandra Bland
In Minneapolis, Rallying in Solidarity with Black Lives in Baltimore
Thoughts on Prayer in a "Summer of Strife"


Little guy said...

Title is not true. It does happen to white people, its just much less frequent and not reported as heavily by the American media.
A white guy with an air rifle was gunned down in the hallway of a hotel and it got very little attention. He didnt even have the gun on him. Somebody saw it and called 911.
Our problem with bullies getting badges is one that every American needs to worry about, and no president or even a governor has done anything about it. Of course its gotten worse under president Cheeto.

Michael J. Bayly said...

It's the disproportionate aspect of what's happening that the title is referring to, Little Guy. White people are not being disproportionately killed by police.

This artcle clearly spells out who is.

Excerpt: "While a majority of total victims of police violence are white, multiple studies have found that police violence disproportionately affects people of color.

"A 2020 Harvard study of nearly 5,400 police-related fatalities in the U.S. from 2013-2017 found that Black people were on average three times more likely to be killed by police than white people. Of the total fatalities, 2,353 (42.83%) of those killed were white and 1,487 (27.07%) were Black. Annual per capita rates of police-related deaths for Black people ranged from 0.43/100,000 to 2.10/100,000 compared with a range of death rates for white people of 0.08 to 1.10/100,000.

"A 2019 study from Rutgers University published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences supported those findings: Police violence was found to be a leading cause of death of young men in the U.S., with Black men 2.5 times more likely to be killed by law enforcement than white men."