The video of the shooting of Philando Castile by a police officer is shocking and graphic. The footage of the aftermath showing the reaction of his 4 year old daughter and his girlfriend Diamond Reynolds, is so heartbreaking that it has held me in an emotionally chokehold for the past days. Here’s why.
“On July 6, 2016, Philando Castile was shot and killed by Jeronimo Yanez, a St. Anthony, Minnesota, police officer, after being pulled over in Falcon Heights, a suburb of St. Paul. Castile was in a car with his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her four-year-old daughter when he was pulled over by Yanez and another officer. […] According to Reynolds testimony and a police dashcam video/audio, Castile told the officer he had a firearm and had one hand in his pants pocket after being asked for his license and registration. Reynolds said Castile was shot while reaching for his ID after telling Yanez he had a gun permit and was armed. The officer shot at Castile seven times. […] Yanez was being charged with three felonies: one count of second-degree manslaughter and two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm, [but] was acquitted of all charges on June 16, 2017. The same day, he was fired by the City of St. Anthony.” (source: wikipedia.com, June 23, 2017)
The video reposted from the Facebook-page of AJ+ not simply shows but proves that this kill was racially motivated. The officer pulls the vehicle over because of the facial features (“the wide-set nose“) of the driver. This already shows a prejudiced gaze when the officer approaches the car which eventually leads to the 7 bullets fired at Castile. The acquittal of the officer proves that the police and justice apparatus in USA is infected to the bone with institutional racism. It also shows that this institutional racism has a enormous societal effect. It is this effect that penetrates through the skin and nestles itself in our ‘cultural DNA’ (Özdil, 2014).
This killing leads to another ‘broken home’. Statistically broken, because the death of Castile categorizes Diamond Reynolds as a ‘Black single mom’. Physically broken, since the daughter is raised without a father and Diamond now has to raise her daughter alone, in a country with very poor social security. And mentally broken, because this family (and their extended families i.e. community) has -ultimately- been shown (by the acquittal) that they are not considered as full citizens and human beings.
We should consider this the next time we present and use statistics such as ‘single parent family’ to ascribe family values to a social group.