“Snowvember” was a popular nickname given to a snowstorm that hit south Buffalo and Buffalo’s south towns in November 2014. On the thirteenth of that month, it began snowing and the snow did not stop until seven to eight days later. What resulted was a snow total of more than seven feet and surreal photos of what became known as “The Wall of Snow.” I recall thinking, while stuck in my home in the midst of the storm, “What if it were to start snowing and never stop?” This is what the past week has felt like in regards to America’s killing fields. “What if the violence starts and just will not stop?”
Alton Sterling was shot and killed by Baton Rouge Police on July 5, 2016. The cell phone video of his killing reached viral proportions by July 6, 2016. It was on the sixth with I first heard about the shooting. Initially, I was a bit confused. I was wondering if this was the culmination of an investigation that had begun some months ago. The realization that this was a recent police shooting of another Black man left me speechless. Moreover, it was another shooting caught on tape. The tape seemed to be very incriminating similar to the cell phone video of a police officer who shot and killed Walter Scott as he was fleeing a police officer in South Carolina. You will definitely have those who enable criminal police behavior saying that the video does not tell the whole story. You will also hear the policemen say that they feared for their lives. Yet, in my mind, those policemen murdered Alton Sterling. Also, in my mind, the police will more than likely face no charges. As Karenga says, “Correct me if I am wrong!”
In the aftermath of the Sterling shooting, I drifted into a predictable numbness. Newscasts showed the video repeatedly. Black Lives Matter spoke out. President Obama made a statement. Yes, this was the proverbial “de ja vu all over again.” By night fall on July 6th I was thinking it might be some time before we here about the police shooting of a Black man given what just happened in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. On July 7, 2016 news reports about a live facebook video feed began to rapidly circulate. Once again, caught in the “fog of war,” I was baffled as to what was happening. After the fog cleared I realized that another Black man had been killed by the police. This time, it was the police in St. Paul, Minnesota to take their turn in what Ta-Nehisi Coates calls “the destruction of the Black body.” Philando Castile was shot and killed by St. Paul police in front of his girlfriend and her four year-old daughter. The live facebook feed showed an officer still holding a gun pointed at Castile while he bled to death. Later, the deceased man’s girlfriend was placed in handcuffs. All this occurred over a traffic stop concerning a taillight.
Outrage over the back to back police killings prompted nationwide protests and renewed calls for more accountability from America’s police departments. Keep in mind that these events come in the midst of a possibility that all the police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray will more than likely be acquitted. People all across the country took to the streets. One must realize that Black Lives Matter has three components. First, it is an organization. Second, it is a movement. Third, it is the truth irrespective of a nation that constantly attempts to tell us something different. As a consequence, not everyone who protests is a part of Black Lives Matter. On the other hand, everyone who protested knows that Black lives do matter.
Marchers in Dallas, Texas were asserting that police must stop the willful killing of Black people in America. Moreover, police must be held accountable for their unjust and unlawful deeds. On July 8th, as the protest in Dallas was winding down in downtown Dallas, shots began to echo through the downtown streets. Chaos ensued. By dawn of the next day ,we came into the knowledge that five Dallas police officers had been killed and seven wounded. There were also two civilian bystanders who were wounded. The lone shooter had been blown up by a bomb that police sent his way on a robot. Dr. King asked an extremely poignant question in a 1967 book by that bore the title question “Where do we go from here: community or chaos?”
Since the killings of the two Black men by police in Baton Rouge and St. Paul added to the killing of the five police officers in Dallas, we have been inundated with a deluge of talk and opinions by the regular television talking heads and the reporters who are hired to ask them questions. President Obama, who was attending a NATO summit in Poland, has been called upon to make statements after statements on the international stage addressing American domestic politics and social fabric. Those on the right are wrongly accusing Black Lives Matter for the deaths of the officers. In the “land of the free and the home of the brave,” the masses seem to be quite fearful dumbfounded to learn that not all Americans feel they are free. Irrespective of these turn of events a Republican-led Congress refuses to act. They prefer inaction and cowardice rather facing America’s problems head on. As a nation, we lurch from onegut–wrenchingg event to another. Somewhat dazed and somewhat confused, we seek pseudo-solutions within our own folly which passes for personal genius. However; in the final analysis, we know the answers to these questions. Yet, we are hesitant to solve them. Dr. King called this the “paralysis of analysis.” Nevertheless, in very clear terms, Dr. King said we have a choice. We can choose a community or we can choose chaos.
Anthony Neal earned his Ph.D. in political science at Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University). Dr. Neal is an associate professor at State University College, Buffalo. The author of numerous book reviews and journal articles, he has had his work published in the Western Journal of Black Studies, the Journal of Black Studies, and Black Issues in Higher Education. In 2014 Dr. Neal received the university’s Faculty Appreciation Award, was named Instructor of the Year by the university’s United Student Government, and Professor of the Year by the Student Political Society in the Department of Political Science. In 2015, he published The American Political Narrative which is a succinct yet poignant narrative about the development of the American political system and what is needed to maintain it. In 2016, he will publish a book of poetry entitled “Love Agnostic | from 9/11 to Charleston”
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