Saturday, July 15, 2017

PLAYING CATCH UP: THE PHILANDO CASTILE VERDICT


I was so naive.

Here I thought that, with the unambiguous murder of Philando Castile in a suburb of St Paul, Minnesota, one year ago tomorrow, America had finally seen an incident so unambiguously awful, so unforgivably egregious, so well and completely documented, perpetrated against such an obviously undeserving victim, that nobody would ever try to justify what happened, or rationalize what was done to him. 

Of course, I was wrong. 

First, as if on cue, came the usual suspects: Youtube "race realists" and other assorted trolls and cowards from the alt-right fever swamps. They mocked Castile's grieving mother, questioned his girlfriend's motives for live-streaming the incident's aftermath, and even speculated about Castile's guilty looking ears. Some claimed Castile was a Crip (he wasn't), that his gun permit wasn't valid (it was), and on and on, one false accusation after another, and countless speculations that were all proven wrong upon the public release of the police dash cam video in the days after the end of the trial of officer Jeronimo Yanez was completed.

Ah yes... the trial. Again, call me naive--or maybe blame my white privilege--but that verdict came as something of a shock to me. For Yanez to be declared not guilty seemed impossible, just as the thought that he would not be facing any repercussions for his actions now seems perverse.

But not, apparently, to some of my more conservative friends. Of course, racist online shitlord trolls like the ones described above are one thing; they were always going to do their rancid thing. But when some of my lifelong friends, one of whom also happens to be a law enforcement officer, start hemming and hawing and offering up excuses and "yeah buts", it breaks my fucking heart. 

"But Jerky," my LEO friend insisted, "it's not like YOU have years of training in the proper Use of Force!" Frankly, I don't think you need years of training in use of force to recognize a murder--or an abject physical coward--when you see one. Not to mention the fact that other experts in the field have said that Yanez' behavior was "objectively unreasonable".  It really shouldn't have to come to that. We have eyes. We have brains. Goddamnit, we have our common humanity. Yanez should never have been issued a weapon, and he definitely should be serving time for manslaughter... at the very least. 

Castile is driving home from getting groceries in the early evening with his girlfriend and her four year old daughter. He gets pulled over for some reason (something that's happened to him dozens of times before), and he immediately and politely informs the officer that he has both a handgun and a permit to carry it. He is then asked for his license and registration, and as he goes to retrieve those items from his wallet, officer Yanez bellows out: "DON'T GO FOR YOUR GUN!!!" Castile, nonplussed, insists "I'm not, sir-" At which point Yanez, heedless of the safety of all three occupants of the vehicle, empties his fucking gun into Castile's soon to be corpse. 

The rest, as they say, is history, Facebook live-stream style. 

During the trial, as part of his defense, Yanez claimed that he smelled marijuana coming from the car, and part of what put him on edge was the idea that the couple might have smoked weed with a child in the vehicle. If they were willing to do that, Yanez figured, then they were capable of anything. This, from the man who emptied his gun into that self-same car. And the jury, god damn them, bought it. 

According to one juror, Yanez' account and the fact that Castile's girlfriend "didn't seem credible" were the deciding factors. One hopes in vain that these jurors will one day have to face a higher justice over the role they played in this injustice.

I think it's worth pointing out, by the way, that the violent crime rate, from ALL demographics, is near an all-time low. Furthermore, a few high profile incidents notwithstanding, police work is safer than ever. Which makes Yanez' cowardice--and much of the rhetoric surrounding so-called "law and order" political issues--all the more galling and grotesque.

Listen... I'm a realist. I recognize and accept the fact that we, as a society, have to grant a certain degree of leeway to the people who we task with enforcing the laws. And I understand that the problems of abuse of authority, increased police militarization, and the disturbing rise of "for profit policing" go beyond the issue of race. But racial animus is undeniably at the heart of so many of these problems, and that's something we're now able to witness for ourselves, thanks to the spread of cheap, portable video technology revealing that Black folks were not, in fact, exaggerating about this shit.  At this point, after all the evidence that we've seen, to argue that there isn't a serious problem with the way police interact with the black community, you have to be blind, either physically or spiritually.

Anyway, I'd like to wrap things up with something that a friend of mine who goes by the nickname Whop-ology wrote on the day of the Yanez verdict. He wishes to remain anonymous for the time being, but I can reveal that he is an African American husband and father who is gainfully employed and a member of the armed forces. I'd never seen him post anything of this nature before, and when I read it, it floored me. He didn't give his work a title, but for now, let's call it "The Verdict".

Just rap nigger
Just sing nigger
Just dance nigger
Don't think you have rights nigger
Don't think you are right nigger
Don't think you are white nigger
Just don't be caught trying to fight nigger
Just don't be caught doing what's right nigger
We just don't care about your life nigger
We just don't care if you are polite nigger 
Just pull up your pants nigger
Just play sports nigger
We just don't want you here nigger
We just don't want you to breathe nigger
Why don't you stop calling each other niggers nigger
Why don't you leave nigger
Every verdict will be the same nigger
Every murder your blame nigger
Look at Chicago nigger 
Look, that's not our problem nigger....
Yea he was stopped because of the shape of his nose nigger
Stop being nosy nigger
They heard the voice recording, it played for the jury nigger
The one showing he calmly followed directions saying he legally carried a gun in his clothes
7 shots this case should have been opened/closed
I know nigger 
So watchu gonna do? Watchu gonna do?

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