The Tragedy and Injustice in How We Will Leverage Philando Castille’s Death

I sat on the bed with my four-week-old son in my arms, cell phone in hand, aimlessly scrolling while my husband was out running an errand. We only had two weeks left in the quiet Minnesota suburb we’d called home for the past year; in just a few days, we’d pack up our belongings and our newborn and head down south to live in my husband Phillip’s tiny hometown.

Phillip had gone out to get something to eat, and I was awaiting his return when the hashtag “Philando Castille” lit up my Twitter feed, and a link led me to the Facebook Live video broadcasting his death.

This shooting wasn’t just something that happened “out there.” It happened in my neighborhood, and I read about it while my own (black) husband was riding the same streets where Castille was pulled over by an officer.

When I heard of Jeronimo Yanez’s acquittal, I’ll admit, my heart sank. But I’ll further admit that it sank, not just because of the death of Philando Castille, because of the militarization of police in our country, or because another snuffed-out black life has been catapulted into the media spotlight. Though all of those reasons played a part in my sinking heart, the reason that most surprised me was my fatigue.

I am tired of seeing black lives turned into hashtags and leveraged for movements.

The Problem With The Media

The details of Philando Castille’s case are readily available to anyone who wants to search for them. I am far from a trained journalist, but others have done their jobs well.

Or… not so well, depending on who you ask.

Media bias is a reality that we face every time we turn on the news. This is nothing new. In the case of any name that has been uttered next to a “#blacklivesmatter” hashtag, we know all too well how details can be shifted and pulled to support an agenda. We so easily become pawns in this game of “he said, she said.” We so readily draw lines in the sand, take a stance, and raise our voices and our ideological picket signs.

And sometimes we should. Sometimes, justice isn’t being carried out. Sometimes, police officers are just trying to serve and protect, just like sometimes, unarmed black men are victimized by police brutality.

But, every single time, you can be sure that the media will have something to say about it, and the point of view will be shouting, “Pick a side, pick a side, pick the right side!”

The Problem With The Movement

If it’s not the media we’re decrying, it’s the movement.

There are those who have responded to generations of systemic oppression by using their ethnicities as a battering ram to flatten any and all who would dare disagree with them. You are either for them or against them, you are either marching or you’re tripping, you are either right, or you’re wrong.

And, on the opposite side, there are those who refuse any and all interpretations of any and all events that might remotely hint and the slightest bit of racism. MLK marched and fixed that ideology, everyone has equal rights now, stop whining about equality like a little millennial crybaby and make something of yourself.

Then, there are people interspersed in the middle. People who see facts and statistics, problems and solutions, but stand stricken into silence, afraid to be lumped with either camp and sick of that fear.

The Problem Within Us

But I don’t blame the media for our inability to process these things well. Nor do I blame hashtag warriors on either side of the aisle. I blame our sin natures.

Philando was shot seven times in my neighborhood in Minnesota. The officer who shot him just walked free. If these events don’t give us pause, might I suggest that we have been so conditioned to guard ourselves against certain ideologies that we’ve conditioned ourselves right out of genuine compassion?

Philando was shot while he rode in the car with his girlfriend and his daughter. The officer who shot him was acquitted. If these events drive us straight to Twitter, and not to our knees, might I suggest that we have been so conditioned to vomit our opinions into social media for validation that we’ve conditioned ourselves right out of real compassion?

We are broken. We prefer battle lines to the complexity of human nature, and we prefer false peace over difficult conversations. We prefer our police officers to be blameless heroes, and the creeps they shoot to be ruthless thugs. Or we prefer our police officers to be villains and the guys they shoot to be blameless victims. All the time. We don’t want to make any room in our narratives for the fact that some police officers are the good guys, and some of them aren’t; that some of the men who have fallen were simply not at fault.

The Cure

Philando Castille’s death is a tragedy.

Having looked at these facts and wrestled and weighed them, I am grieved over today’s verdict.

I’m also grieved by the hordes of people who will treat Philando like just another statistic — either in their war against systemic racism — where names are cynically collected as tallies that prove white supremacy’s bloodlust. Or in the war against that war, where we are so tired of the battle lines of injustice that we explain away every casualty that could prove us wrong.

The only cure for this battle is the Gospel of Christ. And if you’ve been reading here for a while, you know that that isn’t something that I say lightly, to brush off real pain. I hope to say it with a willingness to press as deeply into that truth as the occasion calls for it. Our allegiance isn’t to BLM -so we’re free to depart from their platform. Our allegiance isn’t to the boys in blue -so we’re free to question their methods.

Our allegiance is to Christ. He alone equips us to grieve properly when the life of an image-bearer is snuffed out. And he alone equips us to lay our bias at the foot of the Cross. He equips us not to leverage a man’s death for one platform, or to ignore a man’s death for another.

He equips us to handle the complexity that is the racial landscape in America today because he frees us from trying to toe any party line that there is.

I am mourning today. Lump that mourning with a platform if you feel the need, but know that I mourn in allegiance to my King alone.

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5 Responses

  1. Larry
    Reply
    17 June 2017 at 6:38 pm

    Thank you and God bless. Your words brought peace and understanding to my heart and soul.

  2. Ryan
    Reply
    20 June 2017 at 11:49 am

    As I was reading this article I was touched by your message of peace and avoiding picking sides, but I wonder is it possible? Even you while writing this article, in my opinion, picked two sides without knowing. For example, there is strong emotions tied to the debate about millennials. The tone didn’t match the rest of the article and suddenly, (although probably directed towards Afr. Amer.) I felt like I am being called a winy cry baby millennial.

    Also, the cure to what I assume is the fight of picking sides, is Jesus Christ. If you are not a Christian either you become one, or you will not receive the cure. This leaves out anyone who is not a Christian.

    Is it possible to not pick sides? Have you decided to not take sides in the future? Or is the message one of understanding of the otherside while still fighting for what you believe in with a sympathetic tone?

    It is not an easy issue that is affecting our society, which is so new to such interconnectedness and you opening your heart is, i believe, truly the cure.

    • 20 June 2017 at 8:24 pm

      Hi Ryan,

      Thanks for commenting! I don’t want to silence your commentary -just want to offer some clarification in case it might be helpful.

      I was being sarcastic with the millennial crybaby remark; it’s one overblown side of the coin when it comes to the extremism of the two sides of this debate. I’ve been shouted at by both “sides.” And if anyone is a millennial crybaby, it’s this navel-gazing 90’s baby. And proud of it. lol

      I really can’t communicate on this or any issue without being aligned with one side or another. One day, I’m a heartless conservative, the next, I’m a bleeding heart liberal. The only constant that I’m able to cling to is that Christ guides my compassion… not a platform.

      And as to Him being the ultimate cure, I’m unapologetic about that. I am a Christian. My primary goal is to proclaim the Gospel to unbelievers. Peddling the cures of social justice apart from the ultimate cure of the Gospel is a meaningless pursuit to me. My care for the heart and hurt of others stems from my love for them in Christ. Others may have different priorities, but I wouldn’t truly be opening my heart if I wasn’t completely honest about my own -you know? 😉

      In case more clarification would be helpful, some other stuff from the site:

      Saying “The Gospel Is Enough” Is Not Enough

      Jordan Edwards, Racism, and the Church

  3. Kenya Ajoseh
    Reply
    22 June 2017 at 8:46 am

    Thanks for writing this. I often feel people want us to take sides and when we don’t they are mad. My allegiance is to Christ alone as you stated in the article. All Christians regardless of race and/or ethnicity should be sadden by these events. It hurts that we Blacks/African Americans are not viewed in the image of God. I just wish everyone realized that racism is a sin just as abortion and adultery are sins. We all need to constantly check our hearts and ask God to remove any partiality or any prejudice that we have against others. It’s a heart issue. The same emphasis we place on protecting lives in the womb should be placed on lives outside of the womb. We should care because we are believers and serve a just God.

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