The Normalization of Black Deaths

By Nylla Davis, Op-Ed Contributor

Systematic Racism is unfolding before our very own eyes and has transformed into the new norm, but for some this will never be their norm.

Last week, there were two incidents involving the police that ended in fatality with an unjust cause. On Wednesday, July 6th in Baton Rouge, Louisiana a man was selling CDs outside the Triple S Food Market. Police arrived to the scene after receiving a disturbance call. Once the police arrived at the scene, Alton Sterling was pinned down to the ground, restrained and shot dead. A gruesome cell phone video recorded the altercation, which left people to believe that his death was unjustifiable, inhumane, and another occurrence of police brutality.

The next night (July 7th,2016), the world faced another instance of police brutality. A man, his girlfriend, and her child were pulled over for a broken tail light. A simple police stop that ended in yet another fatality. In this situation the man, Philando Castile, laid dead beside his girlfriend while she live streamed the video with her daughter sitting in the back of the car.

On television, radio, and social media, one can find young black men being shot by police officers at an alarming rate. Last week, two more innocent lives were taken at the hands of police brutality. Protests across the country broke out in response, and one in Texas led to violence. During this protest, twelve police officers were shot and five were allegedly killed by Micah Johnson. His motives, as reported to the local authorities, were that “he was upset about the recent police shootings." The following day, after the shooting, the suspect was killed

Black people are tired of watching multiple black bodies drop dead like leaves falling to the ground. This is due to a broken system that is built on the basis of racism. The continued grievance over countless black lives has caused the peaceful protests in Texas to evolve into a riot.

In both instances of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile the media played a crucial part in the informative and reactionary process. However, the way in which Alton Sterling and Philando Castile deaths were broadcasted was drastically different in the way that the Texas incident was broadcasted and shown to the public; while videos of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile shootings were spread through social media and on national news broadcast were gruesome.

The videos of Alton and Philando being shot were brought into the American public’s living room, continuing the cycle of desensitization. The media has normalized the death of black lives and brought it into the homes of the American people as a suitable form of videography to watch and continue on with their day as if nothing happened. The killing of black bodies has become as normal as seeing your local news on a nightly basis. All of the uncensored and raw video is feeding into the minds of the American public, especially the younger generation, further perpetuating the ideologies of blacks lives not being worth anything. Allowing these uncensored videos to be circulated proposes the idea that black people dying is unimportant and futile.

The portrayal of black people has come to a common consensus that they are dangerous due in part to social media and the news and that their lives do not matter. On twitter last week, people scrambled to get photos of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile in an accurate representation of them with their families rather than a photo that demonstrated one of his choices and not his character as a man. Often in cases of police brutality, if the person has a mugshot, that photo is shown across every social media source and news outlet. They frame the victim subliminally before a case has even begun. This yet again perpetuates the idea that black lives don’t matter because of their crimes made in their past. These stories often amplify the mistakes the individual has made in their lives rather than focusing on the man for the person he was that day that he was shot senselessly and unjustifiably.

We are watching systematic racism in real time. Systemic changes need to be put in place in order to not breed hatred and to stop the continuation of this vicious cycle of intolerance and injustice.