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Op-Ed: Police Shootings Affect Us All

louisiana shooting alton sterling stop killing us
AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

To be complacent to injustice is to be complicit in injustice.

With the murder of Alton Sterling still fresh as his blood on the hands of his killers, Officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake, I woke this morning to find another black man had been executed by those sworn to protect him. Philando Castile is just another black body mowed down unjustly, another statistic, another hashtag, another reminder that my black body is worthless and can be taken away from me at any time and for any reason and without any retribution.

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I came to this country when I was four years old. I didn't have any say in the matter, but for 26 years America has been my home, yet I continue to feel unwelcome, unsafe here. I'm an immigrant, I'm black, I'm gay, I'm from a low-income family and still I went to college, I worked hard, and I made something of myself. It may not be much, but it's something--something that I couldn't do anywhere else in the world. So you can't tell me I'm not what this country is about and what this country is built on.

But my faith in America is shaken each day with the knowledge that police can recklessly destroy innocent lives, while the criminal justice system continually turns a blind eye, and our legislators do nothing in the face of homegrown terror. My faith in America disappears when I see Cameron Sterling weeping uncontrollably for his slain father. I have no faith in America when I see Valerie Castile lamenting her son for being "black in the wrong place."

Officer Nakia Jones provides perhaps the only light I can see in this murky haze of aggression. A black female police officer, her impassioned plea for fellow cops who are not up to serve and protect people that don't look like them to take off their uniforms is an example of the good that still exists in the world.

Officer Jones is also an example of how important it is for all of us to stand up for what's right. Because I'm not sure if you've been paying attention lately, but a lot of shit is really wrong.

I got a text from a friend this morning. He's Latino and he was upset that his white boyfriend wasn't even aware of Alton Sterling and wanted to remain ignorant. My friend wanted to know if he should confront his boyfriend about whether his white privilege gives him the luxury to be ignorant.

I told my friend that it's 2016 and no one has that luxury. Especially if you're white. People of color have had to bear the weight of America's sins for centuries and we're all exhausted. White privilege is very real and very powerful, but to use that privilege to remain willfully ignorant to evil is akin to pulling the trigger that took Alton Sterling's and Philando Castile's lives.

While I'm exhausted and angry and disheartened among many other things, I'm hopeful that Alton Sterling's and Philando Castile's deaths will not be in vain. We're all responsible to fight injustice--no matter how inconvenient or uncomfortable it makes us. So I urge you to speak out about it, write about it, tweet about it, Facebook about it, talk to your friends and family about it, vote, protest, educate yourself, do something--because to be complacent to injustice is to be complicit in injustice. No justice, no peace.

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