After some recent Facebook conversations with a few people I’ve decided to bundle all my thoughts through all my comments and replies into one concise post. Although most of what I say here will be my thoughts about systematic racism in our justice system in general, there will be a good focus on Castile.
The question/concern came up about a police officer’s right to protect their self and their duty to protect the public. This was also coupled with the argument of us civilians will never fully understand/appreciate the positions that police officers get put in:
Police officers who kill unarmed people are not protecting the public. What is the point of all that training as a police officer if you’re just going to kill an unarmed person? What is the point of carrying a taser if you’re going to kill an unarmed person? Rare is it the crime is worth the death. A lot of this boils down to having better police training. This could be de-escalation training, training in non-lethal methods of restraint, better conditioning of officers, etc. The main point would be to take the focus off the firearm and to turn the firearm into more of a last resort than a first option.
Police officers do get put in situations you and I will hopefully never face. Thing is, they know that going into the job. Police officers are expected to be able to operate under stress and duress. I am a teacher, I am expected to operate under stress and duress. If a child cusses me out and I cussed him or her out in return, I wouldn’t keep my job. That comes with the territory. An officer needs to be able to keep a level head when the heat is on, period. An officer shouldn’t have a light trigger finger that goes off so quickly, as in the Castile case. Again, much of this can be fixed via better and more thorough training of officers.
With Castile, there was nothing threatening or intimidating about a man informing an officer that he was legally carrying a firearm. The officer asked him for his ID, which he then reached for. I’ve seen the video. It is disgusting. It is so disgusting that I won’t even link it to this blog. If you truly feel the need to view it, please do, however. Keep in mind that you are watching a man die, however. Nothing in Castile’s voice or demeanor appears to be threatening in the officer’s dashcam. Even after the shooting, Castile’s girlfriend remains cool, calm, and collect and still refers to the officer as “sir”.
For Yanez to go from 0-60 in literally half a second is absolutely disgusting. Yanez has no right to wear that badge. He used absolutely none of his training and recklessly fired multiple bullets into a car with at minimum two civilians, one of which was a young girl. There were bullet holes in the back seat of that vehicle, where that small girl was. Even if you firmly feel that Castile was a threat, there is no justification for emptying a firearm recklessly into a vehicle with two innocent lives, one a woman and the other a child. That child is never going to know what a “normal” life is thanks to Officer Yanez. That child had to watch a father figure be gunned down by somebody who was suppose to protect her. That is just disgusting and there is zero justification for it.
Another argument brought up was the Milwaukee case, where a black officer shot an unarmed black man:
Yes, sometimes a black officer shoots an unarmed black man. It isn’t okay, but to try and compare that case to the many cases of white officers killing unarmed black men and boys for selling cigarettes, playing with a toy gun, walking towards them, walking away from them, or even being pinned to the god damn ground is just perverse. The larger picture shows that black males are targeted by ANY law enforcement at a much higher rate.
Even our court system does the same. Statistically, black males serve more time or have harsher punishments than their white male counterparts for the same damn crime. Doesn’t matter if its a black judge, white judge, female judge, etc.
Point is, to try and focus on just one or two cases isn’t doing justice to the larger picture. Yes, we focus on Castile, Rice, Garner, Crawford III, etc. despite being just one case because ultimately those cases are a part of the larger picture of systematic racism. There isn’t a system of systematic racism towards whites in this country. When was the last time you heard a white man complain about being called a cracker? When was the last time you heard a white man complain about not being able to get a cab? When was the last time you heard about a white man being followed by a police officer for 5 blocks while out on a jog? You just don’t hear it, but this is something that black people live with every day of their lives. You might be sick of hearing about it. You might be sick of seeing Black Lives Matter stuff around your city or social media. If you’re so sick of hearing about it, imagine how sick some people are of living it?
The marijuana aspect gets brought up a lot, too:
First off, how would Yanez immediately know that Castile had smoked marijuana within the last 30 days? If you smoke marijuana, it can still be detected in your system, like it was with Castile, up to 30 days afterwards. This has been one of the largest defenses of this. This was even used as a defense to my asking why the NRA doesn’t care about Castile’s 2nd amendment right, as he was legally carrying a firearm in an open carry state. He was following the law. Somebody’s rebuttal was, “if under the influence you cannot legally carry.” Okay, that’s fine. I’ve still seen the NRA protect the 2nd amendment rights of others, despite being under the influence. You see pictures and videos of gun toting white guys at pro-gun/NRA rallies, beer in hand, gun in tow. This has never been an issue. With John Crawford III he was gunned down in a Walmart for carrying a bb gun he intended on purchasing. Nothing illegal here but where was the NRA?
Back to marijuana. Even if Castile had been under the influence at the time, Yanez has no way of assessing that. To my knowledge there was no visible marijuana nor was there a smell of marijuana in the car. Where was the perceived threat? Nothing in Yanez’s demeanor says he felt threatened up until about 3 seconds before he starts shooting into a vehicle with innocent lives present. Even if Castile had a joint hanging from his mouth, does this still justify the response from officer Yanez? Castile was still being honest and informing the officer he had a legal permit to carry/had a gun in the car. He wasn’t making any threats and was complying with Yanez’s order of producing an ID/insurance, but Yanez still shot him.
Please feel free to comment to this post or share it. I would love to engage in some discussion if anybody has any additional points they’d like to bring up.