Philando Castile and Alton Sterling


I’ve really put off writing this for a while, its been a hard July so far, and it doesn’t look like its going to get any easier. Earlier this month we were hit with two major news stories of innocent black people being shot and killed by police forces. Then shortly after a man took up arms and killed several police members in retaliation. The #BlackLivesMatter movement are in full force, with peaceful protests in both the US and UK receiving massive media attention. As well as incredibly high attendances.

It truly is beautiful to see humans banding together to stamp out an inequality, and further the bonds for our whole species together. Injustice really sucks, and getting rid of it in our every day lives is super important. Well done humanity for that.

Yet, its not all good, I see a lot of anger too. Especially anger directed towards the boys in blue, out there protecting us from crime. They literally put their lives on the line, and are some of the most hated people in our society right now. It would be wrong of me to say that the anger isn’t at least somewhat fairly placed – especially as a gut reaction sort of deal. But if you let the dust settle and look at this factually, things look a lot different. Lets try understanding the position our police forces are in, before we’re so quick to jump to that anger.

Firstly, lets have a look at some stats for the areas where Philando Castile and Alton Sterling were shot. See if it can provide some insight into why the police reacted the way they did. Castile was shot and killed by a police officer from St Anthony, Minnesota. Stats show that the black population of St Anthony, Lauderdale and Falcon Heights have a population of 47 total. This site shows a bunch of statistic regarding St Anthony, the most notable are that there are 109 crimes committed per square mile, and that St Anthony is only safer than 22% of the country. All of which is to say, there is a lot of crime in St Anthony.

Wikipedia also shows that in 2013, 36% of people in Minnesota owned weapons. Here’s also an article from 2015 that shows part of the problem with the illegal sale of weapons in MN too. I was looking for a statistic about violent crime, and hoping to separate it by race, but I can’t seem to find one. Either way… lets add this all up and put ourselves in the shoes of your average cop…

Officer Tryingtohelpthecommunity, on the scene. You know of the high violent crime rate, amount of legally owned weapons, and the problem with illegally owned weapons too. You’re trained to react before things go from bad to worse in order to keep citizens safe. You know also of the danger that can occur if an angry criminal tries to make a move for a gun they are in possession of. You’ve seen it before. Yet you’re standing there in front of a guy who says he has a gun and begins reaching for his pocket. What do you do?

Under that much pressure and fear, its not a far cry from understandable to see why this incident occurred. I do not defend the police officer’s actions, but in light of all of the surrounding statistics of what that cop’s life must have been life, day in day out. I can understand how he made that mistake, and it doesn’t make me angry.

Although I couldn’t find any black crime statistics for Minnesota, I’d definitely wager that most of the violent crime that police officer deals with is related to black people. There are reasons for this, absolutely, and a lot of it is down to oppression and racism and the lack of opportunities for poor people. White people are the same way, and have committed a lot of violent crime too under the same circumstances. This isn’t an indictment or racist rant about people at all. However, it does make the actions of the police slightly more understandable.

Yes this was a grave mistake, and yes there needs to be discipline and reform in the police force; but people in society, you people reading this. Don’t be angry at this man. He put his life on the line every day, the potential for him to die as a police officer serving and protecting people is enormous. As tragic and upsetting as it is to see yet another innocent black man killed, we have to respect the good this man did for his state. Not just condemn him for the one big bad thing he did that made the news.

Police brutality can and does affect everyone, not just black people. You can find cases of police of all races being involved with the brutalisation of people of all races. Up to and including a white 6 year old autistic boy who was shot and killed by black police men. As well as a campus cop who shot and killed a naked, unarmed white teenager who was just on drugs. We need to leave this whole “police brutality idea only affects black people” behind, because its only holding us back from sorting out the real problem.

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