According to The Counted, a project which is run and operated by The Guardian that keeps tally of the number of people murdered by police officers in the United States every year (and the fact that such a project even needs to exist is both heartbreaking and infuriating), at least 561 people were killed by police officers in the year 2016 alone. 136 of those people were Black, and 2016 hasn’t even ended yet. And over the past two days, two more Black people found themselves added to that list.
On Tuesday, July 5, 37-year-old Alton Sterling was confronted by two police officers outside of a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana where he was selling CDs. The two officers were responding to an anonymous call they had received which stated that a man with a red shirt was in front of the Triple S Food Mart, armed with a gun and pointing it at people. The officers are then seen via smart-phone camera footage, tackling Sterling onto the hood of a nearby car before wrestling him to the ground and amidst the scuffle, one of the officers was heard saying “He’s got a gun!” The other officer was heard saying, “You fucking move, I swear to God…” before one of the officers withdrew his weapon and fired multiple shots at Sterling, killing him. Despite footage showing an officer removing an object from one of Sterling’s pockets, there has been no official confirmation as to whether that object was a gun.
The following day, in Falcon Heights, a suburb in St. Paul, Minnesota, 32-year-old Philando Castile was pulled over by police for a traffic stop as he drove with his girlfriend, Diamond “Lavish” Reynolds, and her four-year-old daughter. In the smart-phone video footage, which Reynolds would later stream on Facebook, Castile was complying with the officer’s request to show his license and registration and as he reached for his wallet, he informed the officer that he was carrying a firearm and was licensed with a concealed-carry permit to do so. Despite that, the officer withdrew his weapon and fired several times at Castile. The officer can be seen and heard warning Reynolds not to move as Castile sat bleeding and dying in his seat, and Reynolds can be heard responding, “Please, officer, don’t tell me that you just did this to him! You shot four bullets into him, sir! He was just getting his license and registration, sir!”
As if learning about and recovering from one police-related shooting wasn’t enough, many of us were forced to immediately deal with another police-related shooting, asking the same questions we’ve been forced to ask ourselves and each other far too many times before, while also dealing with our anger, our frustration, our grief at the sight of yet another Black life being treated by police officers as if he or she didn’t matter. Many of us expressed these thoughts and feelings via Twitter, and one person who also felt the need to do so was actor/director Don Cheadle. Unfortunately, he wasn’t immune to dealing with idiots jumping in his mentions earlier today and trying to approach him by talking about respectability politics, how All Lives Matter, and how maybe we should be taking the feelings of the police officer who shot Philando Castile into consideration. And as many of these people found out for themselves, Jesse Williams is not the only socially-conscious Black actor on Twitter with little to no tolerance whatsoever for such bullshit, and he made that crystal-clear:
So glad you reached out. I didn't know who was going to eat this extra dick that I have. Sending it right over. https://t.co/uOsV5PUaE8— Don Cheadle (@DonCheadle) July 7, 2016
(That last exchange had nothing to do with any discussion of police-related shootings, obviously. But seeing Don clap back like that was just too good to pass up.)
So, as we are once again forced to contain our anger about another Black person whose name has been turned into a Twitter hashtag because of police brutality, as we once again find ourselves knowing that police officers who perform such acts will very likely not suffer any consequences for them, as we once again prepare ourselves for this to happen all over again and wonder when it will finally stop…if you really feel the need to approach anyone on Twitter, or Facebook, or in person with the same respectability-politics, All Lives Matter, “why don’t you care about Black-on-Black crime in Chicago?” nonsense that allows police officers (and the people who support them) to think that their every action, no matter how horrible, is merited…do us all a favor and don’t do it. As Jesse Williams put it: If you have no interest in equal rights for Black people, then do not make suggestions to those who do. Because we can promise you this: We’ll be as nice and understanding to you as Don Cheadle was to all of those idiots on Twitter.