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Posted under: Race & Identity Opinion

I’m not watching the video. Here’s why. #AltonSterling

I’m not watching the video. I can’t watch another video. I can’t watch another video of another black person being hunted like wild game, knowing that it won’t matter. Knowing that even though I know black lives matter, the world doesn't believe that black lives matter. I can’t click any links to stories that research Alton Sterling’s background, fishing for anything that points to a criminal history — anything that shapes the familiar and disturbingly comforting thug narrative that white America has come to rely on. I just can’t do it. I can’t watch another video knowing that I’ll have to turn on the TV and speed through Fox News, knowing that they will resurrect their favorite self-loathing black bobble heads like Stacey Dash to deliver some half-baked, one-sided, self-righteous declaration that this was somehow Alton’s fault. That if he had just been more respectful, this wouldn’t have happened. Or if he’d just been closer to the one percent so that he wouldn’t have to sell CDs on a sidewalk, this wouldn’t have happened. Or any of the other asinine reasons they’ll say he caused the police officers to lay on top of him and then savagely shoot him dead. I can’t stay on Facebook too long because I’ll see that white “friends” think that the answer to all of this is living in a colorblind world and having faith that our democracy allots every person due process, both suggestions that point to their inherent white privilege that they swear doesn’t exist. I can’t watch the video knowing that there are hundreds of other black people that have been murdered in the same barbaric way, but with no video rolling. I think of Sandra Bland as I confront the heartbreaking reality that this is nothing new. I become physically exhausted as I think of the black men and women killed by law enforcement just in the past year alone whose wrongful deaths didn’t make the media circuit — somehow making senseless deaths even more senseless. I can’t watch the video because I can’t bear to see another black person put on trial for their own death. I can’t stomach the fact that in the coming days and weeks, Alton Sterling will have to prove that he didn’t deserve to die like this. I can’t watch the video knowing that Alton Sterling isn’t the only victim in this tragedy. Alton was a father of five children. I know that he has parents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Alton Sterling had friends. Alton Sterling had a network of people who will have to attempt to process this. A warped, dark understanding of society will be reinforced for black people, old and young alike. I know that the mental model for how this world works is so tragically different for black people than it is their white counterparts. White children’s mental models are founded on the principle that “If you follow the rules, you’ll be just fine.” Black children’s mental models are rooted in the reality that “If you follow the rules, you might be fine.” I can’t watch the video. I can’t hold my breath for change that will not come.

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