Systemic Execution: The Deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile

In the past 24 hours, two families  have been shattered by police incompetence and cruelty. Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are the recent addition to the hashtag graveyard of black men and women that were killed by police. One was minding his own business just trying to make some money, and the other was pulled over for a busted tail light. Both were said to have had weapons on them at the time of their deaths; the funny thing is that both had the right to carry weapons. Philando Castile even told the officer he was registered and had his gun on him before being shot four times in front of his girlfriend and child. Thankfully both were caught on tape.

What’s also amazing is that neither of these cases was caught on body cam. In Alton Sterling’s case, the cameras allegedly “fell off” and don’t even appear to be present in the case of Philando Castile. If you haven’t caught on by now, I’m saying their names in full so that the gravity of what just occurred can be understood. I will not lessen nor abbreviate them. These were two men who fell victim to a system that sent them in as slaves and sent them out in body bags. There are children now who have no father, while the public “servants” that killed them are free to roam the streets. Never did I think there would come a day where I’d fear a police officer more than I’d fear a terrorist, or a criminal. I’ll provide some background as to what happened in both of these killings.

The first shooting happened to Alton Sterling. On July 5, 2016, 37-year-old Alston Sterling was standing outside of a convenience store, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, selling CDs so he could make some money. Baton Rouge police were called to the store after receiving a report that someone had threatened them with a gun. When they arrived they confronted Alton Sterling and proceeded to then tackle him onto the ground; after restraining him the then fired six shots into him; he died at 12:35 A.M. The video of the murder is graphic but it needs to be seen. The media, shortly after, was quick to dehumanize the father of three by showing his criminal history; yet they’re not as quick to point out the inexperience of the two officers that executed him. Between both of them there’s only about seven years of experience. The father-in-law of one of the officers is even criticizing Alton Sterling for pulling out a gun, despite the fact that he can be clearly shown without one in his hands.

Within 24 hours of Alton Sterling’s murder, another shooting of even more malevolent proportions occurred. In Minneapolis, Minnesota, 32-year-old Philando Castile, accompanied by his girlfriend and daughter, was pulled over for having a broken tail light. Philando Castile had a conceal and carry permit and told the officer that he was carrying a weapon. As he reached to get his license, the officer shot him; in front of his girlfriend and four-year-old daughter, both of whom were handcuffed and taken to the police station. Yes, a four-year-old little girl was handcuffed and put into the back of a squad car. Philando Castile’s girlfriend recorded the event, showing him dying in the driver’s seat of his car, while the officer panics. The officer can be seen still pointing his gun at the dying body of Philando Castile. The kicker with this one is that he has no criminal record to look up. No way to criminalize him for the inhumane actions that led to his death.

A very redundant argument, to justify shootings like this, goes along the lines of “If *insert name here* had listened to the officers and complied, then they would still be alive.” Philando Castile listened, and complied, but he died. But that is the law of the land isn’t it; obey or die? Now we can’t even do that. I can’t express the amount of pain that I myself have felt in the past two days, let alone the pain of these two families. But, in the words of the late, great Langston Hughes, I can express my anger. “Negros. Sweet and docile. Meek, humble, and kind. Beware the day they change their mind.”



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