Another Black Child Is Forced to Witness the Cruel Truth About 'Justice' in the US

"One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." Every single morning for 12 years, I remember reciting these words verbatim in a classroom as we said the Pledge of Allegiance. But as I grew older, the phrase "justice for all" began making me shake my head. Because as much as the Pledge is symbolic of what this country is supposed to stand for, every time I turn on my TV, check social media, or read the news, I find myself asking, "Where is the justice?" Just as the world was trying to come to grips with the horrific viral footage of 37-year-old Alton Sterling being forcibly held and shot to death in Louisiana, another appalling incident in Minnesota was similarly made public. Another black man, Philando Castile, was shot and killed after being stopped for a broken taillight. What's equally heartbreaking is that Castile's girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her 4-year-old daughter were inside the car to witness and document the aftermath.

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In the midst of this most recent tragedy, I can't help but think about what society is teaching our black children. It's teaching them that there is no justice for all; that's the collective opinion as yet another crime is committed against a man who has been called an upstanding citizen with no record to date. 

How is this fair? And how are mothers of black children, as well as other minorities, supposed to raise their kids to grow up in a system that has already pegged their children as "bad" or "suspect" just because of racial profiling?

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In this instance, Reynolds recorded the incident on her phone after Castile was shot, and the footage was shared via Facebook Live. In the horrifying video, audiences can see Castile in his seat with multiple gunshot wounds and hear Reynolds interact with the officer and her boyfriend, who would be declared deceased shortly after.

Stay with me! We got pulled over for a busted tail-light in the back, and the police just … he's covered. They killed my boyfriend. He's licensed to carry. He was trying to get out his ID and his wallet out his pocket. And he let the officer know that he was -- he had a firearm, and he was reaching for his wallet. And the officer just shot him in his arm.

He was simply reaching for his license after telling the officer that he was licensed to carry a gun and was shot several times, according to Reynolds. 

At one point after, viewers can hear her little girl attempting to comfort her mother, saying, "It's okay. I'm here with you." But it's not okay. In fact, this is far from okay. Things like this should not keep happening. But they keep happening, and it's truly a blow to the next generation. 

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There is already a distrust between African-Americans and the police, stemming from decades of mistreatment prior to and post the civil rights movement. In this day and age, these events are just reconfirming the fears that these kids have. The events are reconfirming that they cannot trust the police. Why? Because even if you cooperate and don't resist, you still may not get the "justice" you deserve. 

Reynolds recently spoke about her treatment by the police in a press conference:  

They took me to jail ... They didn't feed us. They didn't give us water. They took everything from me. They put me in a room and separated me from my child ... They treated me like a prisoner. They treated me like I did this to me, and I didn't, they did this to us.

And we can only wonder how her daughter was treated in custody. This little girl had just witnessed an unspeakable thing -- to have someone die right in front of her eyes -- and she was taken away from her mother?! That makes no sense at all.

Again, I think about Alton Sterling's 15-year-old son, who was utterly distraught on camera as he has to keep reliving the death of his father over and over. No child should have to witness these atrocities, much less relive them day after day. But these two children have to.

The downside of social media is that these accounts will live on forever, but it's a catch-22 because, like those in Louisiana knew, proof is necessary. People have to see it to believe it, and if these events are shared, they shouldn't be ignored or swept under the rug -- we hope.

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It's truly sad that there is a petition circulating to fire Jesse Williams from Grey's Anatomy because of remarks that he made in his BET Awards speech, but these events only illustrate why his speech was needed.

Now, what we've been doing is looking at the data and we know that police somehow manage to deescalate, disarm, and not kill white people every day. So what's going to happen is we are going to have equal rights and justice in our own country or we will restructure their function and ours.

Preach. Yes, things need to change, especially for the children. It starts with having an honest conversation and actually fixing what we as a society know is wrong.

There should be no reason for kids to be fearful of circumstances they cannot change. They should be able to go and play in a playground or walk around in a black hoodie and not fear that today will be their last day on Earth, that they never see their families again, or that they will die alone for reasons unknown. 

The FBI is going to be looking into this case, but the damage has already been done. There is no comforting Castile's mother, who was denied the chance to be with her son in his final moments. There is no erasing the memories of this awful day for Reynolds and her daughter.

All that we can do as a people and a society that is supposed to be equal is keep protesting and hope that the future can be salvaged for the kids. 

 

 

Image via iStock.com / Leonardo Patrizi

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