The last week has been an onslaught of tragedy for our country and our lives. Mr. Alton Sterling, an African American man was standing in a parking lot selling CD’s in Baton Rouge, Louisiana this past Tuesday night. A homeless man is reported to have called 911 stating that Sterling showed him a gun in response to him asking Sterling for money. A video taken of the incident appears to show that Mr. Sterling’s gun never left his pocket…yet police shot him to death. Police refused to comment whether Mr. Sterling had a gun.
Mr. Philando Castile was stopped by police outside St. Paul, Minnesota. Before Castile reached for his wallet to present his identification he told the officer that he had a gun and was licensed to carry it. Mr. Castile was shot dead by the officer.
Last night twelve police officers in Dallas, Texas were shot and five have died. These officers were assigned to ensure the safety of the protest regarding the two men who were killed by police on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The pain and hurt and lack of trust and fear by many members of the African Community is justified in light of what not only is the video evidence of these shootings but also what countless of them have experienced at the hands of bigoted police officers.
At one time in my life I was the manager of a large housekeeping organization at a major university. One night I was telephoned by one of my supervisors to please come to his building quickly as one of his crew was being questioned by the police regarding the theft of money from a professor’s office. When I arrived two white police officers were questioning the African American custodial employee. After observing one of the officers screaming at my employee…I asked how he was a prime suspect when he was entering offices at my request and with master keys that I provided him and the accusing professor had left her purse on her desk with the door open…and she was not present. The officers convinced my employee to subject himself to a strip search…where they found no money…and he was exonerated. One of the officers told me that I had hurt their interrogation of my staff member…who was and still is a respected member of our community…and that if I had not been there…he would have confessed.
Police are often wonderful people. The key word is what a friend told me many years ago…a policeman is a man. Also, a policewoman is a woman. For someone to shoot and kill police men and women to some how avenge wrongs done that the people being shot had nothing to do with…is insanity!
The next time you are in trouble…afraid…perhaps for you life…there will be a policeman or policewoman that you will call upon. They will come to your assistance…often at the risk of their own life. They deserve our thanks!
The bigoted racist culture of signaling out African Americans for additional traffic stops…shadowing in department stores…or the deadly irreversible assumption that lethal force is the first solution…is chilling and frightening!
There is a truth that is as old as humanity. We are all first human beings. We love our families…we want the best for our children…we want to succeed and create a decent life for our loved ones…and we want the respect of our common humanity.
We must begin now…to talk together and forget the color of our skin…but rather listen and listen and listen…and see the person who is communicating with us as Dr. Martin Luther King extolled us, “by the content of their character.”