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June 17, 2017

Do Black Lives REALLY Matter?

The verdict came down while I was at the park with my children and nephew.

We were out on a bike ride, enjoying a snack when the news of the verdict popped onto my screen. My stomach instantly tightened up as I hoped for the best.

It wasn’t to be. The news was, as I feared, that the officer who shot Philando Castile was found not guilty. The news was not shocking, as it has been par for the course in police shootings.

This time, I’d hoped it would be different because Philando was simply driving with his girlfriend and a young child. He informed the officer he had a legally permitted weapon and followed instructions. And even while doing exactly as he was told, he was still shot.

His girlfriend and her four-year-old daughter were in the car and witnessed the shooting and sat at gunpoint while he died. This one was caught on video, and I’d hoped that the evidence would help get a conviction. The District Attorney who charged the officer said, “No reasonable officer knowing, seeing, and hearing what Officer Yanez did at the time would have used deadly force under these circumstances.”

When I read the news of the verdict, I felt a surge of emotions. Not guilty. Of course. I was angry and despairing at the same time. Tears burned my eyes and rolled down my cheeks as I felt the knot in my chest drop into my belly. I wanted to rage—to scream at the top of my lungs—and I wanted to curl into a ball and cry. Instead, I decided to write.

What world do we live in when this sort of thing happens so often and there is no recourse? What do I tell my children? How can I be asked to pledge allegiance to a country that claims “liberty and justice for all” when there is decidedly not liberty and justice for so many? Why are people more outraged at Colin Kaepernick taking a knee than they are at the blood of black men and women running in our streets?

People often ask why it is necessary to have a movement like Black Lives Matter and it is exactly times and atrocities like the injustice handed down today that necessitate the BLM movement. As Shaun King has stated many times, the system isn’t broken; it’s doing exactly what it’s meant to do and that is to uphold white supremacy. Until the very systems that uphold this dynamic are destroyed, we will not see justice.

For far too much of the United States of America, black lives clearly do not matter and until they do, we will continue to march, to fight, to write, to stand up, to shout, and to speak truth to power.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

Rest in Power, Philando.

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Author: Lisa Vallejos, PhD
Image: CNN
Editor: Travis May
Supervising Editor: Danielle Beutell

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