For the sake of Black lives, the time to put your foot down is NOW

Saturday July 9th 2016

By Zecharias Zelalem

The scenes are gory, disgusting, heart-wrenching, but as a generation of underprivileged, discriminated and systematically stomped upon African Americans can testify to, these scenes are becoming all too familiar.

Another Black life cut down in cold blood meaninglessly by state forces too trigger happy to resolve a minor situation diplomatically the way civilized human beings are supposed to. The way Alton Sterling was manhandled just prior to his death is more than enough reason for a nationwide outcry. For reasons that will likely never be truthfully clarified, members of the Baton Rouge Police Department found the local CD salesman, a beloved member of the community engaged in nothing more than the daily struggle to earn a living in the extremely ruthless American South, enough of a public menace warranting being tackled and pinned to the ground by two police officers before being shot multiple times. Since the tragedy, witnesses and bystanders have been making similar statements explaining that the 37 year old father of five children had made no threatening gestures whatsoever that warranted the extremely heavy handed physical abuse he had meted out against him, let alone be shot over and over. Thanks to citizen reporters, we will not be bamboozled into believing a police version of events, which tend to be released in reports fraught with the procedural pack of lies in favour of the officers, crying self defense. Rendered completely immobile and probably nearing strangulation, another favoured police tactic famously used to murder unarmed African American Eric Garner in 2014, the two officers who carried out what equates to nothing less than a state sanctioned execution, are heard repeatedly yelling at and threatening the ill fated unfortunate man. Despite his being incapacitated, Sterling was then shot about five or six times from point blank range and is later seen in one of the videos, bleeding profusely from wounds to the chest. He dies a gruesome death at the scene, in a scenario that we have become accustomed to viewing on a regular basis now.

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A mural of Alton Sterling painted by protesters right where he was killed (Image: Jourdan Riley)

In 2016, this tragedy angers but no longer shocks the public psyche the way the 1991 Rodney King police beating did when a video of that incident made headline news across the country. Police killings of defenseless Black people in America are hardly a new phenomenon. British newspaper The Guardian states that twice as many Black men and women were killed by American police officers than people of any other racial group. Their study adds that in 25% of the cases, the victim was unarmed. Does this mean the other 75% of murdered African Americans fought back and posed a real risk to the safety of the state sponsored killing machines in blue?

Hardly. Police and allied media have long attempted to capitalize on the mere presence of a weapon on the person or practically in the vicinity of these unfortunate souls as justification for the tendency of American police officer’s to resort to lethal ways of sorting out misunderstandings. However, as we have seen in recent days, a Black man merely exercising his American constitutional rights to bear arms is fair game for the hail of bullets fired by cold blooded killing cops and tainted in hatred and racism.

Barely a day after the horrific video of the Alton Sterling murder started making waves across the global social media sphere, yet another African American was made to pay for the institution’s brokenness. Philando Castile, 32, a long time public servant who served a public school district in the state of Minnesota for over a decade, was driving with his girlfriend Diamond Reynolds and four year old daughter in his vehicle when he was pulled over for what should have been a routine traffic stop. Upon being asked for his vehicle registration papers, Castile, well acquainted with the law and legal procedures, acted responsibly in alerting the responding officer that he had in his possession, a legally owned firearm and that it shouldn’t be any reason for alarm. Despite Castile’s civilized and calm demeanor, the officer overreacted and panicked, barking at Castile to put his hands in the air. Castile complied, but was immediately shot at in the arms. The subsequent interaction between the police and a hysterical Reynolds was captured on camera, recorded via Facebook Live. We can hear Reynolds trying to reason with the killers of her husband before she herself is bound and sent to jail to spend the night. All this in front of the couple’s four year old daughter, who is most likely scarred and suffering from the severe trauma of having watched the men in blue execute her father and arrest her mother. Castile’s only crime was believing that the American constitution guaranteed rights for him as it would any other citizen of the United States of America. In the eyes of the law as his family would tragically find out, his status as a fully functioning member of the community facilitating the development and blossoming of youths in the St. Paul School District was meaningless. Despite his service to his community and country, his country treated him the way they would any common criminal or drug dealer. At least criminals would for the most part be guaranteed a trial. Philando Castile, a shining star of his community, was cut down in front of his horrified girlfriend and child.

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Long time public servant Philando Castile wasn’t spared the full force of police brutality at a routine traffic stop. He was killed in front of his girlfriend and daughter (Image: CBS)

What is wrong with us as a people? We have truly degenerated to depths unheard of if we can wake up the next day and continue with our lives as if nothing had happened. It is clear to anyone who isn’t living in a cave that the system in place through its actions, or lack of actions is indirectly telling us that Black lives DON’T matter enough to warrant a stern hard look at the individuals being awarded the American carte blanche killing permits known as police badges. How can someone truly believe that in 2016, the long propagated American dream extolling the virtues of hard work and cutthroat determination actually applies for Americans of all races and creeds?

For those of you who claim to truly value the worth of Black lives in America, here’s a stinging cold dose of reality that might begin to explain the extent of the steep uphill climb social justice seekers across the so called “land of the free” are up against. Understand that in 2016, you are either extremely gullible, naive, or truly selling yourselves short if you still believe that the answer to the questions that has African Americans and their allies of all races up in arms (not literally, please put your gun down officer) CAN NOT AND WILL NOT be obtained through legal legislature or by voting in a charismatic, articulate congressman or congresswoman, no matter how appealing his/her ear to ear grin and his/her Utopian vision may appear to you.

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Protesters condemn the brutal slayings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile in New York City (Image: Eduardo Munoz)

This week Alton Sterling and Philando Castile have joined the wall of martyrs. They had so much energy and life left in them, they had so much more to give to so many people, but now their names accompany those of fellow African Americans murdered by the police. Dontre Hamilton, Eric Garner, John Crawdord III, Michael Brown, Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, Tanisha Anderson, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, Rumain Brisbon, Jerame Reid, Tony Robinson, Phillip White, Eric Harris, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray and many more. Many more, as in many unnamed here and frustratingly, many more yet to come.

The status quo must go. It’s time that people unite as one and actively fight Lady Liberty’s stubborn refusal to reformat the social norms of the United States of America. The mandate on the establishment has long expired. The “greatest country on earth” is no longer able to fairly accommodate its own inhabitants. The rest of the world is sick and tired of hearing the chauvinist spokesmen and women of a system mired in racism and discrimination preach to the world about democracy and human rights. It’s outright arrogance and the hypocrisy is at nauseatingly high levels. Reform and a dismantling of the establishment have long become requirements. A Presidential appeal for calm is out of place at times like these. You cannot expect people to cooperate and work alongside organisations that are working day and night to ensure that a quota of spilled innocent Black blood is met. People are fed up of the same tried, tired rhetoric.

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Images of African Americans killed by Chicago Police (Image: wechargegenocide.com)

For so long, such cries for national reform fell on deaf ears. Described as belonging to the radical left or of racist nationalist African American militant groups, mainstream media has been able to quickly out those reading out the demands of a social justice starved nation as “unpatriotic,” “flag haters” and “traitors.” However, unlike what may have been depicted, movements such as the Black Lives Matter movement are for those who simply adhere to the belief that humanity and compassion should be shown to all regardless of ethnic, racial or religious affiliation.

Does it take being Black to be saddened by the endless atrocities committed by the barbaric gun toting lynch parties roaming America under the banner of serving and protecting?

No.

Does it take being Black to experience utter heartache upon watching Alton Sterling’s now fatherless 15 year old son break down in tears in front of the nation’s cameras?

No.

Does it take being Black to be completely outraged when federal courts fail to dish out indictments against members of the Blue killing squads despite videotaped evidence of their complicity in broad daylight murders?

No it doesn’t. It takes being a human being. It takes being a concerned member of society and it takes not being a desensitized, dehumanized sellout of corporations. It is about time that the chapters of the Black Lives Matter organisation and those of all organisations, Black affiliated or not, which pride themselves on taking a stand against oppression shake the nation to its core. This can no longer be routine, this can no longer go unpunished, this can no longer be the headline news that competes for space on your local newspaper’s front page alongside pizza coupons and the latest raunchy exploits of the Kardashian sisters.

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Black Lives Matter demonstration in Toronto Canada 2014 (Image: TML)

Let us not fool ourselves. The electing of a candidate from a donkey or elephant adorn political party, whether it’s the blunt, pea brained buffoon with the moneybags, or the much more refined, lying manipulative former first lady, will not change anything. The 2016 election is a campaign to elect individuals who believe in the system but who want to run things their way. What good are their intentions to those of us who firmly believe the system needs not tinkering with but a total dismantling?

In 2016, the United States of America can no longer be permitted to proceed with its campaign that murders and maims African American folk while protecting the low level blue clad hitmen who carry out the dirt work in the name of crime fighting. To show that Black lives matter, we must all be willing to exit the comfort zone and confront the injustices that we are now frequently seeing uploaded to our newsfeeds. The fight against evil isn’t restricted to those of a single race, nor those within the American border. For the sake of future generations and for the sake of a future where African Americans can leave their doorstep without immediately entering the cross-hairs of the men in blue, the so called “good guys,” every freedom loving justice seeking human being must be willing to let bygones be bygones and unite under a common banner for humanity because despite what the Pentagon will tell you, for the Black men, women and children of America, the Homeland Security Advisory System has been at code red for “severe,” for decades. Except that instead of balaclava clad Middle Easterners, they are for the most part Caucasians, Americans, salaries paid by the taxpayer. The terrorists that have infested the land are not mobilized by a call to jihad, rather a call to 911.

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Alton Sterling’s son breaks down as his mother addresses reporters a day after the 37 year old CD salesman was brutally killed by two Baton Rouge police department officers (Image: Bill Feig)

We cannot allow the blood of Sterling, Castile and so many more to spill in vain.

My heart goes out to the families and friends of the victims who are devastated beyond any consoling.

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Black lives DO matter.

My name is Zecharias Zelalem.

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