I was appalled and saddened to discover that the killer of Philando Castille was acquitted of all charges and will receive no penalty. I believe he should have, at least, received the charge of involuntary manslaughter. The fact that he will continue his life freely sickens me. The reality that so many were so quick to defend his actions against the young man whose life ended as a result frightens me even more. Understand, I am in no way advocating the hatred of police officers. But I do think that acting in such great measures should receive consequences. And that people ought to see the error of acting with such a preemptive mindset against a specific group of people.
I am a Southern woman. I bare that heritage with pride and dignity, as I should. However, too many people within this region of America continue to carry the misconception that we white people should be allowed to see ourselves as above or greater than black people or other people of color. These individuals give our lovely region a bad name and reputation. And while we continue to progress, there is indeed a great deal more that needs to be done to accomplish true civil liberty and equality.
When it is a typical occurrence that A) people of color get shot and killed by police based on perceived behavior, and B) white people find it necessary to look for any small slice of evidence to back the killing of a person of color, there is a major flaw within our culture. And that is the culture of Southern white people. I include myself in these statements as well. Years ago, I would have been just a guilty of having such a toxic mindset and reasoning as they.
And it is just that – toxic. We wonder why people of color have negative things to say about us and use extreme caution when associating with us. Yet, the answer is in the news – monthly, weekly, daily… We never take the time to stop and examine our own behavior and words because we have never before been asked to… And who would dare challenge us when we primarily run the government, protective forces, and other high end hierarchies – especially in the South.
We use the following examples to excuse our dismissal of the plight of black people and others:
- “Well, they treated Irish people worse than black people back in the day.” My darlings, as a woman of strong Irish decent, I can tell you the archaic plight of the Irish has not only been well documented and compensated with success and a lack of profiling today, but the ability to not worry about police officers shooting us simply because of our skin color.
- “Well, the Jews who survived the Holocaust don’t kick up that kind of fuss.” My darlings, once again, refer to the above words. The Jewish Holocaust survivors have been compensated as best as they can. Numerous books and courses document the specific happenings within that time.
And yet, we continue to use these as examples of who people of color ought to look up to. Why would they? The government has implemented a systematic method of keeping black people as the majority of those below the poverty line by American standards. Thus, they often turn to crime as a way to gain status and monetary benefits within their own community. This is through no fault of their own, but ours. Especially when we refuse to acknowledge the role we’ve played and see our privilege for what it is.
And even all of that is besides the point. I read multiple comments of people not only defending the officer, but condemning the innocent man left for dead. All of these comments were deemed null and void by the end of it when we find out that he was a clean-cut, all-American young man who was a teacher and happened to legally carry a gun. What makes white culture so afraid of black people? Isn’t it time we reexamine our views of them? To see them as humans who simply happen to have skin of a different shade rather than a whole different ‘race’ altogether?
Racism is NOT our heritage. It does NOT hold a place of pride. It is a toxic flaw in Southern history that we keep alive, despite the destruction it does to everyone. And, if you cannot see this… If you are the white person who defends your sideways statements with “I even have a black friend…” I will spew you from my mouth and life like the lukewarm substance you are. Your ideals for “Southern heritage” are archaic and savage, having no place in a civilized society of unity and respect.
- Athena O’Ryan