"Why Do You Have to Make These Shootings About Race?" Because They Are

(ANTIMEDIA Op-Ed) Baton Rouge, LA —Why do you always have to make it about race?

Because it IS about race.”

This is a common, growing conversation in the United States.

Race and class are unfortunate, yet inextricable factors—for us, for the police and for the dead man,” wrote Goldie Taylor, referring to Alton Sterling in her article for the Daily Beast. Mr. Sterling, a father of five, a small businessman, and an entrepreneur, was selling CDs in front of a mini-market with the blessing and consent of the owner, Abdullah Muflahi, who witnessed a Baton Rouge police officer shooting Mr. Sterling Tuesday night.

Louisiana is an open carry state where having a gun is perfectly legal, yet one has to wonder if race plays a role in how police approach a man they believe has a gun. Here is a link to a video clip of police handling a white man with a gun with a degree of patience not granted to Alton Sterling — who was shot within seconds of being told to get on the ground. Mr. Muflahi said Sterling never saw a gun in his hand and never saw him holding one in the presence of the officers. Is a simple suspicion regarding the possession of a legal firearm grounds for instant public execution without a trial?

After the incident, Louisiana Congressman Cedric Richmond called for a DOJ investigation into the shooting of Alton Sterling, and the DOJ has announced it intends to open one.

An engaged citizen filmed the incident, which immediately went viral and sparked an instant uprising in the city of Baton Rouge, where 50.4% of the population is black.

A second video shows a more revealing look at how Alton Sterling was killed. The cop was sitting on one of Sterling’s arms and was holding his other arm. There was no way Sterling could have reached for his gun when he was shot.

We see time and time again that when a white person is suspected of a crime, corporate media will circulate a pleasant photo of them smiling. CNN showed Sterling’s mug shot from years ago.

As Goldie Taylor wrote:

If we dare question that level of violence, we are immediately accused of ‘playing the race card.’ If we dare point to the statistics or call for transparent investigations, we are accused of failing to police morality in our own communities. When we weep and shout the names of our dead, we caution that the victim was ‘no angel.’”

She continued:

The officers involved deserve a serious, independent review of the incident. What they don’t deserve is the benefit of the doubt or blanket exoneration simply because they were wearing a badge. They deserve the justice it appears that they could not find it in themselves to afford to Sterling. Injustice is injustice, no matter who it touches, no matter who the person police killed had been in the years, weeks or moments before injustice slayed them. If Sterling’s civil liberties do not remain intact, neither do ours.”

Black people have been telling us the same thing for decades: that they don’t have equal rights — that they are treated differently, especially by the police. One man who protested in Philadelphia last year beautifully articulated what the black experience in America today is really like. “We’re angry about this system that we’ve lived in forever. There’s martial law in Baltimore. There’s been martial law in black neighborhoods forever,” he said.

Asked what he would like to see, he answered, “We want equality of Justice. That’s what this is about. It’s not about people getting killed. It’s about equality of justice. It’s about being seen as equals in the eyes of the law.

We’re here to say that we’re not just gonna let them walk all over us. We’re citizens of this country. I’m just as important as you,” he continued.

Pointing to the blonde female CNN reporter, he said:

And they should see that. They don’t see that. In our neighborhoods, it’s police above citizens. In your neighborhood it’s citizens above police. They don’t know that. The police have no integrity when they come into our neighborhoods.”

He was also asked what he would like his lawmakers to do.

I just want the police to be held accountable. I don’t understand why it’s hard to believe that a police officer would shoot an unarmed man and then say, ‘my life was in danger’ and be lying when the police have been known to be dirty, for many years,” he said.

“Police Have been in cahoots with the mob, and all types of other crime syndicates and suddenly when a black guy gets shot, oh the police guy, he’s infallible, he’s without reproach. Police can just get away with anything when it comes to a black person.

On Wednesday, Shaun King wrote an article titled “Stop asking African-Americans to be calm in the face of police brutality and racial terror”:

On Wednesday, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards called for calm in the wake of the investigation into the death of 37 year old Alton Sterling by Baton Rouge Police. Sir – I say to you respectfully – black folk have bought that line before. We’ve been calm for 400 years. America and its leaders, cannot, in good faith, continue asking African-Americans to be calm without providing the corresponding justice that our calmness deserves. We’ve made this trade before.”

His article details the historical pattern of suppressing of black outrage that continues to this very day:

What did calmness bring to the families of Tamir Rice or John Crawford or Rekia Boyd? What did calmness bring to the families of Natasha McKenna, Ramarley Graham, or Kendrec McDade? In each of those cases, and thousands like them, American police have brutally killed unarmed African-Americans without consequence. Now, 2016 is on pace to have more people killed by American police than any year ever measured in the history of this country. We’ve tried calm. It’s not working.

He also noted:

Black men represent less than 10% of all Americans but over 40% of unarmed people killed by American police. Unarmed African-American men and boys are an astounding 700% more likely to be shot and killed by police than unarmed white men. In fact, unarmed black men and boys are killed at almost the same rate by police as armed white men.”

“Stop asking us to be calm. Stop asking us to wear the mask. Stop asking us to take whips, nooses and now police bullets without emotion. We are human beings and we have had enough,” he asserted.

When black people talk about the black experience, do not brush them off or invalidate their concerns. Pretending racism is over simply because you have no racist intentions in your heart is actually an inadvertent act of racism that comes across as an erasure of the reality every black person faces — one that some face every single day of their lives. Instead of asking black people, “Why do you always make it about race?” we need to look at dismantling the racist institution of policing that makes it about race.

War on Black Boys – Kale Nelson

The full unedited Alton Sterling family press conference

This article (“Why Do You Have to Make These Shootings About Race?” Because They Are) is an opinion editorial (OP-ED). The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of Anti-Media. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to PM Beers and theAntiMedia.org. Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. If you spot a typo, email edits@theantimedia.org.