Update: It’s looking less and less possible. “Police officer charged in fatal shooting of Philando Castile; County attorney: Yanez was not justified in his use of deadly force.”
After my spouse and I heard Philando Castile was killed last night, we were sad. After we watched the aftermath video, we were outraged. After I watched highlights of Philando’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, talk about what happened, I wept.
Then I read the comments.
I know you’re not supposed to do that, but I did that.
I’d like to address one particular kind of comment I’ve read. I’ve seen people write something to the effect that the video and Diamond are only giving us “one side of the story,” and that “we don’t know the whole story” and that we should “reserve judgment” until we get the “all the facts.” To me, these writers are trying to imply maybe killing Philando was justified, that he was a danger to Officer Jeronimo Yanez, that he was going for his weapon, and Officer Yanez did what had to be done. They are saying that all of that is quite possibly the other side of the whole story’s facts, and until we know for sure on that, we shouldn’t have any judgment about the situation.
I can see that.
Because, I mean…
I suppose it’s possible Philando thought the best thing he could do is create a world in which a four-year-old girl watches him shoot a cop.
I suppose it’s possible Philando thought noncompliance was his best bet in this situation.
I suppose it’s not out of the realm of reality that Philando weighed whether he should go for his wallet or his weapon and decided weapon was the way to go.
I suppose it could be true that in the video when Officer Yanez yells at Diamond that he told Philando “not to reach for it” and “to get his hands out,” and she responds by reminding him that what he told Philando to do is get his ID, and the officer does not immediately dispute her claim or restate his claim or otherwise set the facts straight, I suppose it could be true that Officer Yanez does actually dispute Diamond’s version of the story and when he’s yelling and swearing in the video it’s just the adrenaline talking, not that he knows she’s right.
It’s plausible that when Officer Yanez pulled him over, Philando knew his only way out of this is to shoot the officer. It’s a reasonable conclusion that Philando thought the best thing to do is pull his weapon, hope he’s a better Quick Draw McGraw than the officer, shoot the officer in front of his girlfriend and four-year-old daughter, and speed away into the night. And it’s plausible that this was his intention and this is what he was in the act of doing. And it’s plausible it was this action the officer was responding to when he shot him to death.
I suppose it’s possible Philando isn’t one of the millions of black people who grew up getting “the talk” from parents about what sort of compliance he needs to offer law enforcement. Or it’s possible that he did get “the talk” and actively chose to ignore it. Or that he did get “the talk” and decided that rather than offer compliance, he would specifically tell Officer Yanez he had a legal firearm in the vehicle, which he legally didn’t have to do, and then ultimately reveal he wasn’t offering compliance but defiance instead because he was going for that weapon he just told him about because as everybody knows, if you’re going to pull a weapon on an officer the best thing to do is tell the officer you’re about to do it.
So, taking all of that in, it’s possible Philando Castile was killed for legitimate, justifiable reasons.
I suppose all of that is possible.
I suppose it’s possible there is no reason this should have happened and that yes, it’s about racism and yes, it’s about guns and yes, it’s about law enforcement systems and yes, it’s about really, really, really hard things for white people to confront and be confronted about.
I suppose it’s possible that just because you don’t want something to be true doesn’t mean it isn’t true.
I suppose it’s possible they have a point and that’s worth listening to, even if it is hard.
I suppose all of those ideas much, much more than I suppose Philando should’ve been shot.
I’ve been in denial before. I’ve not wanted something to be true. I’ve heard that so-and-so did this or said that and I didn’t want to believe it. I’ve been there. I know that sinking feeling when you hear it and you don’t want to admit it and yet deep down, deep down, there’s something there and you know it’s real and it has to be dealt with, even if it’s hard. And you want to deny it, oh, how you want to deny it. Because if it were true it would turn your understanding of reality upside-down. It would mean the way you understand the world isn’t the only way to understand the world. It would mean you might be wrong. Oh, how I’ve been there. It’s hard. It’s really hard. But that still doesn’t mean it can be swept under the rug, or dismissed as untrue, or turned into a gaslighting contest about how ridiculous all of that nonsense is until we get all the facts of the whole story.
My friends, please don’t let denial lord over you when you’re faced with something that could change how you understand the world. Don’t let a kingdom of fear rule over you.
Denial doesn’t make the world easier for you. It makes the world harder for them.
I don’t know the name of Diamond’s daughter, but she said something amazing to her mother in the last few seconds of that ten-minute video. She says something to her mother, who keeps her cool throughout most of that video in ways I cannot possibly fathom, she speaks to this situation that cannot be denied. Near the end, as her mother weeps, her four-year-old tells her:
“It’s okay, I’m right here with you.”
God’s words out of a four-year-old’s mouth.
May that little girl see that a world of justice and peace is still possible, despite what she has witnessed. May she feel God is with her even in the face of such death and loss. May we surround her with God’s love and may we not deny her a world filled with God’s justice.
I pray for Officer Yanez and his family. I pray for Diamond Reynolds and her daughter. And I pray for Philando Castile and his family. His life mattered to this world and to God.
And that’s the whole story.
Lord, have mercy.