The shooting of Congressman Steve Scalise and three others this past week during a practice for a charity baseball game left all of us stunned. The attack struck at the heart of our government and magnified the division politically in this country.
The immediate calls for unity and the end to hurtful rhetoric came from almost all parts of society. Government officials and pundits asking for calmness and more understanding. Seeing one of their own shot down was an incredibly jarring experience for them. It was also jarring for the rest of us, the anger we may have with the current state of affairs was shoved aside due to the unbelievable act of violence on a baseball field.
All that we believe America is, just doesn’t match to this sort of thing. We are supposed to handle political differences in a much more civil way, we just don’t open fire on our elected officials. Sure there are those looking to lay blame somewhere, and those who may have even been ok with what happened. But the heart of America was totally disgusted with this event.
On July 6th of last year, there was another shooting that caught the attention of the nation. Philando Castile, an employee of the St Paul Minnesota Public School District, was shot seven times as he sat in his car with his girlfriend and her four-year-old daughter. The aftermath of that shooting was broadcast on Facebook live, the terror and agony of the event in plain view for all to see.
James Hodgkinson, the man who shot Rep. Scalise, was gunned downed by Capital Hill Police and died. A violent end to someone who brought unjustified violence on others. Nobody is shedding any tears over his death and most would agree he got what he deserved.
Philando Castile’s killer had a much different experience, as this week he was acquitted of all charges. Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez walked out of court a free man. After Castile told the officer that he had a weapon and a permit he reached for his wallet and Yanez emptied seven rounds into his body killing him.
When I first saw the video last year and heard the accounts of what happened I thought that the officer would absolutely be convicted. Most in the black community, however, knew the odds of that were slim. They’ve seen and experienced this same situation over and over again. Even when there is video, clear evidence, and witnesses they don’t expect justice. That’s the goddamn shame of all this, that entire segments of our population can’t and don’t anticipate ever receiving fair and equal justice.
I will be accused of “white guilt” or hit with thousands of excuses and justifications for blacks being killed at a rate of 2.5 times that of whites. Apologists will remind me of what a stressful job law enforcement is, and others will want to tell me about the victim’s prior run-ins with Police. The problem is none of that matters at the moment in time when someone’s life is snuffed out over a broken taillight.
I live in the suburbs, my kids have blonde hair and blue eyes, I haven’t been pulled over by the police in 15 years. I don’t get nervous when I see police lights or pass an officer in the mall. Because I’ve never been singled out because of my race. I’ve never had to explain what I was doing when I was simply walking down the street. I’ve never had to justify my existence to anyone because of the color of my skin.
There are a lot of great police officers, I have friends who are cops, I have family that is in law enforcement but I am also truly beginning to see the other side. I can’t watch these videos and read the reports and ignore what is happening, and what has been happening all along. My reaction to unprovoked violence is the same no matter who the victim is. Justifying any of it is wrong, no matter if the victim is a Congressman or a black man from Minnesota.
It’s one thing to say, “we need to look at ourselves in the mirror.” That means we haven’t recognized the problem yet, and we don’t understand the severity of the issue. It means we have to search ourselves to find the solutions. It means there is something within us that wants to change.
It’s another thing, and unfortunately I believe this to be the case, as a nation to realize that we have already looked at ourselves in the mirror. We have already seen the problem, we know what it is and where it comes from. We know all of this, and we just don’t give a shit.