I’m mad as hell!
By Jasmen Rogers
“I’m mad as hell right now, yes I am.”
These words from Valerie Castile, the mother of Philando Castile, rang true for so many Black people after hearing of the verdict in the trial of the officer that killed him.
Minnesota police officer, Jeronimo Yanez, was acquitted of the charge of manslaughter after the shooting death of Philando Castile in July of 2016. Yanez pulled Castile over for a “routine” traffic stop (read: driving while Black), while his fiancee and young child were in the car. Castile alerted the officer that he was carrying a weapon that he was licensed to have. The officer then instructed Philando to produce his license and registration. As Philando reached for his documents, as the officer instructed, shots rang out.
Officer Yanez shot Philando seven times while his daughter and fiancee looked on. His fiancee began broadcasting the encounter on Facebook Live, giving the world a glimpse into Philando’s final, fleeting moments.
In that video, we saw Philando take his last breath. We saw his daughter. We saw a Black woman calm in the middle of the storm, alerting the word about what happened to her partner. We saw a frantic and unhinged police officer screaming expletives, with his hand still on his weapon, as Philando lay bleeding out.
And now here we are. Once again, contemplating our mortality in the wake of another “Not Guilty” verdict for an officer involved shooting.
In recent years, technology has allowed us more immediate exposure to the violence of the state. However, with more evidence of police brutality being shared millions of times around the world in only a few hours, there is still lack of justice (or even conversation from conservatives, Democrats, the Black church, white people, and on and on) when it comes to accountability for the officers that pull the trigger.
People Black like me are forced to constantly reassess the finite nature of our mortality with new name of a slain Black person at the hands of police and every “Not Guilty” verdict for an officer involved shooting. Could either of us be next? How do we encounter the police and guarantee survival? What if it’s my family? What if it’s my child? What do we do now?
What do we do now.
Everything our parents have warned us to do didn’t save Philando Castile. Be respectful. Get an education. Follow instructions. The police will protect you when you need help. So it seems, if everything they’ve told us still won’t save us, maybe, just maybe, the problem isn’t us.
It’s painfully clear that the system of policing in this country is broken. This is not just about bad apples spoiling a bunch, the whole damn field is rotten.
When Black people are killed by state-sanctioned violence and we receive no justice, so many thoughts cloud my mind. Two are the most pervasive are: with white supremacy, capitalism, and patriarchy incessantly knocking our doors down, “who will survive in America?” and “how can I raise kids in this madness?”
The state is strategically killing our Black kids, and it breaks my spirit to know that there is nothing we can do to stop it. Centuries of prayers haven’t stopped it. Countless revolutions and insurrections haven’t stopped it. Our marches don’t stop it. Boycotts and protests haven’t created significant, pervasive change. And in the time it has taken me to write this piece, the police have killed another Black wo-man in front of her children. Charleena Lyles called the Seattle police for help and ended up shot dead while her children watched.
We were never meant to survive here, much less thrive. The people who colonized this land deemed us fit for consumption in life and in death and times certainly have not changed. We are watching white supremacy wield its power live and in color every moment of the day and it chips away at our very souls.
I’m not sure where we go from here. History has taught us that we are a resilient people with an uncanny ability to bear lash after lash and rise again, only to be struck down once more. And yet, we persist. Our screams piercing the darkness, seemingly silent to the masses. But today, I’m all out of persistence. I’m tired and my spirit is worn.
All I have left are the feelings of Philando’s mother:
“The system continues to fail Black people, and it will continue to fail you all. Like I said, because this happened with Philando, when they get done with us, they coming for you, for you, for you and all your interracial children,” Valerie Castile said. “Y’all are next, and you will be standing up here fighting for justice just as well as I am.”