The Philando Castile Verdict
I’m not going to get political. I’m just going to be honest.
My heart is pounding. In anger. In sorrow. In fear (over what this might lead to).
I know that, unlike the jury, we don’t have all the facts. Got that.
But I honestly wonder, what on earth could Philando Castile have done differently to avoid being killed — for a malfunctioning taillight?! He did everything right.
He was courteous.
He informed the officer he had a permit to conceal and carry.
He told the officer he wasn’t reaching for his gun, which his girlfriend repeated.
Yet, he was shot dead – with his four-year-old daughter and girlfriend in the car.
I’ve got four black grandchildren. I see their faces when I think of Philando.
I personally don’t doubt officer Yanez believed his life was threatened. Just look at the way his voice and gun shake in the livestream on the Facebook page of Castile’s girlfriend. But what cause had Philando given Yanez to feel so threatened – other than being black?
Yes, Yanez says he believed Philando was reaching for his gun, but see above.
I know we don’t have all the facts, but in light of the facts we do have, how can we not cry out, “We don’t get this!?”
Now, I can already hear a lot of white folks saying, “Democracy only works if we trust the justice system. We’ve got to trust the system!”
The thing is, this is all-too-easy for us to say because the justice system has usually worked for us. But from the start it often hasn’t worked for non-whites, and especially for black folk. And the relationship between the justice system and black folk will continue to be tense and volatile and sometimes even violent if we don’t address why this system continues to be rigged against black people!
Yes, yes, yes, the majority of white officers sincerely strive to be fair and impartial. I truly believe this. All the officers I know are outstanding human beings. I even suspect this probably could be said about officer Yanez. But it’s not really about individual officers. It’s about a rigged system! (If you doubt the system is rigged, please read Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow).
Jesus’ way of bringing God’s shalom to the world was incarnational. He set aside all his privileges to enter into solidarity with all who were hurting, oppressed, judged, or otherwise in need. I encourage all of us who are not black to do the same with the black community. Try to set aside your own experience and perspective to experience the pain of this verdict (and all similar verdicts) from the majority black perspective.
Paul tells us to weep with those who weep, and this is a time of great weeping in this community. Only by standing together, and weeping together, can we gradually bring about a humanizing transformation of our broken justice system.