“Nothing within his body language said intimidation. Nothing within his body said ‘shoot me’. Nothing within his language said ‘kill me I want to be dead…..Not one shot. Not two shots. Not three shots. Not four shots. But five shots!” The words of Philando Castile’s grief-stricken girlfriend as she reported in a viral live stream video, the devastating killing of her boyfriend in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, by a police man. “I didn’t do it for pity. I didn’t do it for fame. I did so that the world knows that these police are not here to protect us,” she said.
The latest well-publicized shooting followed on the heels of another piece of footage in which white officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, shot and killed at point-blank range a black man and father of five, Alton Sterling.
For much of history, the U.S has dealt with racial differences by drawing a strict line between white and black people. Over the years, even as civilization becomes more pungent, the color line which should be fading has become even more visible.
It has become disheartening, the series of tragic slayings of young black men and women by white police. Since the 2014 death of 18-year-old Michael Brown at the hands of police in Ferguson, Missouri, the media has reported extensively that police arrest and kill black people at far higher rates than other groups.
In 2015, The Counted estimates, at least 306 black people were killed by police. Sadly, Only 10 of the 102 cases in 2015 where an unarmed black person was killed by police resulted in officer(s) being charged with a crime, and only 2 of these deaths resulted in convictions of officers involved. In 2016, According to The Guardian, Police killed at least 136 black people.
That some of the shootings may turn out to be justified is very much beside the point. The point remain that each racialized police violence constitutes a reminder of an age-old racial struggle, an unyielding fight for equality by a fragile race still struggling to throw off the psychic and economic burdens of the nation’s tortured history.
What about the odious racial injustice in the legal system? The unnamed officers might have been placed on administrative leave but what follows the shooting will be predictably choreographed; blames would be apportioned, shared equally between institutional racism, the rogue police officer and the violent culture of law enforcement. All that drama will be succeeded by obligatory protests, and then condemnations by politicians, followed by the posting of Castile’s and Sterling’s names on various walls of remembrance, until finally the issue fades into the background, relegated by seemingly more urgent matters, leaving the blacks in the US wondering whether the pain of history will ever pass.
Until the next time it happens, and we all have to start the process all over again.