This week, the World has been coming to terms with more news of police brutality, after – just a day apart – Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were seen killed by officers in Baton Rouge on Tuesday and in Minnesota on Wednesday, on camera.
The incidents show the aftermath of routine stop and search procedures – Philando having been stopped on the road, and Alton being cornered in the street while selling CDs. In a despicable turn of events, an officer shot Philando through the window of his car, in front of his daughter and girlfriend, who caught Mr Castile’s last breaths on camera while live streaming the incident on Facebook; Alton seen in another video shared on Instagram, pinned down by two officers as one shot him several times at point blank range.
The widespread sharing of footage from these incidents have relaunched the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, which first surfaced in 2012 when teenager Trayvon Martin was wrongfully killed by police. The recent killings have also jolted conversations about equality of black people in America, where just this year 561 people have been killed by police – 136 (24%) of those people being black.READ MORE: JESSE WILLIAMS TALKS BLACK EMPOWERMENT AT THE 2016 BET AWARDS
Beyonce, who has been busy raising the profile of black rights, empowerment and ‘blackness’ from the launch of her video for “Formation”, has been the first star to call for action via her platform – sharing a poignant message and directing people, through her website, to protest to their local congress against the atrocities.
She also paused her concert yesterday in Scotland, displaying the names of all the victims of police brutality on giant screens.
Meanwhile, her husband Jay Z worked swiftly to finish a new song about police brutality, entitled “Spiritual“, in which he raps;
“Saddened and disappointed in THIS America – we should be further along”.
Other celebrities have also shared posts and words of prayer to their social media pages, Drake writing about feeling “disheartened, emotional and truly scared”, Rihanna writing “Bless my people”, and Nicki Minaj questioning whether the officers involved will be convicted of any crime.
But fans have pointed out that simply using the hashtag and posting pictures isn’t enough, especially in 2016 when we can find videos of the murders of innocent people in our feeds – one fan telling P.Diddy directly
“Stop talking about prayers and do something”
The President of the United States, Barack Obama also released an official statement, which has people torn. Noting that he was restricted in what he could say about the killings specifically, the statement explained;
“These are not isolated incidents. They’re symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system. And I just want to give people a few statistics to try to put in context why emotions are so raw around these issues.
African Americans are 30 percent more likely than whites to be pulled over,” he continued.” After being pulled over, African Americans and Hispanics are three times more likely to be searched. Last year, African Americans were shot by police at more than twice the rate of whites.
African Americans are arrested at twice the rate of whites; African Americans defendants are 75 percent more likely to be charged with offences carrying mandatory minimums. They receive sentences that are almost ten percent longer than comparable whites arrested for the same crime.
I would just ask those who question the sincerity or the legitimacy of protests and vigils and expressions of outrage, who somehow label those expressions of outrage as ‘political correctness,’ I just ask folks to step back and think ‘What if this happened to somebody in your family?’ How would you feel?
We can do better and I believe we will do better.”
Yesterday, a protest in Dallas is said to have turned violent, resulting in reports that five officers have been killed, with several more people injured.
At this point, more turbulence is expected as an investigation into the deaths of both Philando Castile and Alton Sterling begin, and America questions what needs to be done to prove that #BlackLivesMatter to those who remain unphased or unaffected by these incidents.
Image source: Matiastanea.gr, Denverpost.com, Popsugar.com, Cbc.ca, @Rihchat, @Nickiminaj, @Beyonce, @Iamdiddy