It seems that, no matter how many times we insist that “Black Lives Matter,” it still just isn’t getting through to people. Black lives are still disposable in America.
The latest example came late last night, when Alton Sterling, a 37 year old black man selling CD’s outside of a local convenience store in Baton Rogue, Louisiana, was thrown to the ground by two officers, and then, while they had him pinned there with their knees in his back, they shot and killed him at point blank range.
Alton was the father of 5 children. He was known as the “CD Man,” because he often sold CD’s outside of that store to make a little extra cash, something hard to come by in an area where the median salary is $27,000.
Those two officers rolled up on Alton last night, and reminded all of America, once again, that black lives don’t matter to our white society. Alton is a reminder, just like Mike Brown was, and Tamir was, and Eric was, and Freddie was, and Trayvon was, and so many others are.
It doesn’t matter that Alton had a past criminal record. He had done nothing, and was doing nothing, worthy of capital punishment, of cold-blooded execution.
It doesn’t matter that he may or may not have had a gun in his pocket, something perfectly legal in Louisiana, thanks to a complete open carry law, passed by the same folks who will demonize him for it. Remember, the 2nd Amendment only really applies to white America.
The racists and apologists out there will begin throwing these things out there, to distract attention from the clear actions shown in a cell phone video of what happened. They will trot out his past mug shots, and other pictures that emphasize his blackness. They will call him a thug. They will call him a criminal. They will blame him for his own death.They will say these things to dehumanize Alton Sterling, to make his death unimportant, to make him seem like a danger to society. They will do this to ease their own consciences of the guilt of being a proponent of a system that destroys black bodies.
When I wrote my piece last year entitled “Why Black Lives Matter is Crucial, All Lives Matter is Unnecessary, and White Lives Matter is Just Racist,” I got a lot of pushback from folks saying that BLM was basically a solution looking for a problem, that our racial problems magically disappeared in the late 60s, that white people are the ones actually being persecuted in this country. A year later, I still get comments over there to that effect. My fellow white people can’t stand the spotlight being off of us, can’t stand the idea that other folks want to their full humanity acknowledged and not dismissed.
Alton Sterling shows how wrong that worldview is.
What happened in Baton Rogue is a profound injustice. It was completely unnecessary. It was disgusting, enraging and despicable.
It was also completely typical.
Let me close with the words I ended that earlier piece with:
I have no doubt that, were Jesus alive today, he would be saying Black Lives Matter and marching in the streets of Ferguson and Baltimore. And really, he already is, in the form of every human who says these words and marches for justice. I want to be on the side of Jesus, and the side of justice and truth. That’s why I support Black Lives Matter.
Jesus was shot and killed in a parking lot in Baton Rogue last night. Did we white Americans recognize him in that video? Or did we just see another expendable black body, and forget, again, that where the poor and oppressed and weak are, there is Jesus?
For updates and impassioned commentary on the death of Alton Sterling, and the protests happening now, I highly recommend following Shaun King. You can also find the cell phone video of Alton’s death there.