I’m pretty much sickened to the point of inarticulation by the events of the last few days. I live in the Twin Cities. I’ve driven along the same road where Philando Castile was pulled over and murdered by a panicky idiot with a badge. I have African-American friends and family who drive up and down that same road. I now have to spend every day wondering if I’ll see their deaths on my Facebook feed. There aren’t really words to respond to that.
Some of the things I want to say feel too obvious. This is an unpardonable breach of the covenant we have with our government. More than that, it (along with the Alton Sterling shooting and the Tamir Rice shooting and all the other police murders caught on video in the past year) makes that covenant feel like a sick joke, a lie we tell ourselves to help us sleep at night. These videos show us that what white people think of as the law is really just the largest street gang out there as far as minorities are concerned. They’re just another group of violent thugs that have to be placated or avoided. At this point, though, it feels like the multiple police murders…and worse, the multiple policemen who have avoided any punishment for committing murder due to a system that protects them…speaks so strongly to that fact that anything I could say on the subject feels inadequate.
And other things feel too taboo to say. Like…look, I don’t condone violence. I don’t support violence. But I do understand why someone would kill those policemen in Dallas. It is very difficult to say that in our culture, where the police are portrayed by default as “good guys”, where their bending or breaking of the rules to catch “bad guys” is celebrated by popular culture, and where their lives are considered sacrosanct to the point where the mere testimony of an officer that they believed their lives to be in danger is considered to be sufficient to exonerate them from any suggestion of wrongdoing. But if the police are murdering people, targeting them by demographic for rape and murder and extortion and seemingly getting away with it, I can understand why some people would respond by killing police. I don’t want it to happen, but it is an unsurprising response.
And the response to the response…again, this is the point where we’re supposed to say, “But he was a bad guy!” We, as a culture, celebrate rough justice done to criminals. But we shouldn’t. The police murdered one of the suspects in Dallas. They had him cornered, they were out of the line of fire, and they delivered a bomb to him by remote control and set it off in his face. They decided that the courts didn’t need to be involved in this man’s trial and punishment, not when they had a little wheeled robot and a spare bomb. This is the problem. This is the heart of it. There are police out there who feel like they have the right to decide who lives and who dies based on whether they’re “bad”. That is not the rule of law. That is murder. It doesn’t matter how bad they are, it doesn’t matter if they had multiple previous convictions or just a bunch of traffic stops, the police are murdering people who pose them no immediate threat. And we are allowing it.
And in the end, I don’t want to talk about it because there’s nothing I can do. We protest and the police murder people. We catch them on camera shooting unarmed men and they walk away scot-free. An essay like this is just another drop in the bucket of words that won’t change anything. That’s why I don’t talk about this more. Because everything I’m saying? It won’t matter to the guy with the gun and the badge who knows he can get away with murder if he kills the right sort of person.