“People can cry much easier than they can change.”
— James Baldwin
Although Black Americans have grown accustomed to being disappointed by America’s justice system, we continue to have that small sliver of hope in the arc of the moral universe bending towards justice. And yet, when we look at the evidence it often feels as though things will never change. Once again, we are confronted by yet another verdict of “Not Guilty.” How is it possible this time? We ALL say! We watched with our own eyes, on July 6, 2016, Philando Castile being fatally shot by Jeronimo Yanez, a St. Anthony, Minnesota police officer, after being pulled over in Falcon Heights, a suburb of St. Paul, while the entire incident was streamed LIVE on Facebook. Literally, the world witnessed the murder of Philando Castile narrated by his fiancé and watched by her four-year-old child who was huddled in the back seat of the vehicle in which they were riding. Due to the circumstances surrounding Mr. Castile’s death and the cloud of witnesses present on social media, many believed that the police officer would surely suffer the consequences for his actions. If not deliberate manslaughter, then at least reckless use of a firearm. My God, there was a 4-year-old child in the back seat of that car! That small sliver of hope was quickly vanquished last Friday when the jury acquitted the officer of all charges. Again! No justice.
What do we do with this? How do we digest the injustice of it all? Another Black Mother has joined the countless others who have stood at the podium before news cameras and cried out for justice for her murdered child and there was no justice to be had. When will that arc start to bend? How many more Black bodies have to bleed their blood onto the saturated soil of the American promise for equal justice for all before there are no more slivers of hope and no more patience to merely wait on the arc to bend? It becomes clearer each time this narrative is played out that truly in America Black Lives Do Not Matter. The consistency with which Black bodies continue to suffer violence in America is historic and finds its precedent within the slave narratives and not so distant accounts of public lynching, cross burnings, church bombings, dog chases, water hosing, brutal beatings and state- sponsored terrorism inflicted on Black bodies throughout our struggle for freedom, equal rights, social justice and our God-given right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
I have seen people of all races weeping over these most recent events, but the outrage in the halls of justice and corridors where laws are made and policies implemented seem to be singularly focused on the shooting of a Congressman and several other “innocent” people as they practiced for a baseball game within sight of our nation’s Capital. There were those who stood before the podium and wept, shaken by the act of violence they had witnessed, although the only life that was lost was that of the deranged gunman. I heard them ask the nation to pray. I know that the two officers who were on the scene and seemed to have thwarted what could have been a massacre laid their Black bodies on the line in a heroic effort to save the lives of those who have the power to legislate CHANGE. I have to ask, will that change actually come? Unfortunately, Baldwin’s words remind me that people can cry much easier than they can change.