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Friday, June 16, 2017

Verdict in Philando Castile slaying presents more heartache, cynicism and anger

Mid-week, America approved a $100 billion arms deal to Saudi Arabia, home to most of the 9/11 hijackers who visited the worst terrorist horror on our country in its history. During his recent state visit there, the current president assured Arabian leaders that the United States would no longer seek to impose our values on them, trifle matters like improving human rights records.

Instead, the new policy would focus on making deals and boosting “partnership.”

By Friday, this administration rescinded moves by President Obama to help normalize relations with Cuba. Citing “infringement on freedoms,” the current president attacked both Obama’s leadership and that of Cuba, and asserted that American values would reign again. 

Because America values human life and human rights. Except when black people enter the picture.

Philando Castile's life mattered.
Courtesy: Facebook

You see, later the same day, a Minnesota jury acquitted Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez, the man who shot and killed Philando Castile in his own car last August. He was killed right beside his girlfriend as his 4-year-old daughter watched from the backseat, terrified.

Yanez wasn’t even being tried on murder charges; he faced manslaughter and endangering innocents.

He was cleared of it all.

By now, the shock and anger shouldn’t arise, right? Castile was only a black man, and our history shows black humanity remains a point of question, particularly when there’s an interaction with law enforcement. And it’s certainly difficult to see any justice arising in this verdict.

Licensed with a concealed carry permit, Castile had the temerity to tell Yanez that and he had a gun. Because not to tell the officer would, you know, be irresponsible. It’d cause him to risk posing an undisclosed threat and possible grounds to get shot.

So of course, Castile was shot anyway. While  trying to put up his hands. Demonstrating he posed no threat.

Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, had the presence of mind to jump onto Facebook to live stream what unfolded after he was shot. All the while, she worked to comfort their daughter, who watched a man armed by the state shoot into their car and kill her father for no apparent reason. She wanted to document an atrocity she saw happening.

Meanwhile, Yanez seemed to take his time in calling for help. Castile, the elementary school food service worker beloved by children, co-workers and family alike, bled out.

If you were waiting for the ever-boisterous NRA to file an amicus brief or even denounce this killing, you’re clearly still waiting – as are some of its members. The Minnesota jury didn’t focus on Castile’s standing under the Second Amendment, either.

Instead, jurors chose to fixate on the fact that Castile had smoked marijuana that night, the rationale Yanez gave for declaring his actions justified. The fact that white people with guns approach  police AND return home unharmed mattered not here.

Yanez wasn’t too moved by Castile’s humanity in the moment, nor the lifelong scars he’d inflict on Reynolds or her pre-school daughter. But in court, he was moved to tears as he described the incident, and made sure to demonstrate the sentiment so often cited by police officers questioned for killing black people – fearing for his life.

Because whenever a police officer in this country encounters a black person – male or female – there seems to be instantaneous fear, and quite often, acquittals, no matter the circumstances or even video caught by body cams or bystanders. 

Because juries empathize with them, that these officers feared for their lives.

There’s seldom such empathy for those who are terrorized by experiencing or hearing about such events, time and again. That’s despite the fact that America proclaims itself completely and totally vested in preserving human rights. 

Americans shake their heads when they read stories about destruction-bent suicide jihadists who want to inflict pain on others. So many fail to imagine a rage that would drive someone to such a desperate and despicable act.

Living as a black person in America could give you a glimpse into that level of despair. Guess that’s why our sense of patriotism often feels tenuous, especially when any passion we have for our nation of birth seems unrequited, at best. 

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