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On the Police Murder of Mr Philando Castile


By Mark Anthony Neal | @NewBlackMan | with thanks to NewBlackMan (in Exile)



Friday, June 23, 2017.


In early December of 2016, the city of Chicago prepared to settle suits for  two deadly police shootings for more than $6 Million. Days later the cities of Los Angeles and New Orleans settled similar cases regarding deadly police shootings for $8 Million and $13 Million, respectively. The new year was not yet a month old when New York City agreed to pay two shooting victims (who both survived) more than $8 Million after they were attacked by a drunk, off-duty police officer. Months later New York City also settled a wrongful conviction suit for more than $25 Million, for two Black men who collectively served thirty-eight years for a murder they did not commit. As Jim Dwyer wrote in the the New York Times,  “Since the beginning of 2014, the city has paid at least $199,508,000 — call it $200 million — to people wrongly convicted of crimes...In virtually every settlement, the city disclaims wrongdoing.”


The above data serves to place in some perspective the recent acquittal of Jeronimo Yanez, a Minnesota police officer who was charged with second-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of 32-Year-old Philando Castile.  As has been the trend with similar acquittals in, oh so many, shooting deaths by police officers, a conviction would mean an admission of guilt and wrongdoing. There no need for another round of exasperated hyperbole to explain the failure to convict another police officer; The State must defend the right of its paramilitary to work without fear of punishment or reprisal, and a general public that has been led to believe that the lack of such fear is in their best interests -- will keep them safe against the so called other, who most often is us -- are complicit.


Sticks and stones may break your bones but names can never harm you — unless  you are a law enforcement officer accused of a wrongful shooting, and you might be called “convicted.” Municipalities have learned; write a big-ass check (often at the expense of the very communities under assault, who lose access to vital services in order to to pay for failed policing) and keep it moving.


Besides the sheer viciousness and accompanying  ineptitude on display in the shooting death of Mr. Castile, what made the case so compelling was Diamond Reynolds’s live-streaming of the immediate aftermath of the shooting, including her own disturbing interactions with former officer Yanez.  Ms. Reynolds’s four-year-old daughter witnessed the events from the backseat of the car, and can be heard comforting her mother in the video.


What remains so striking about the shooting of Mr,. Castile is that in his interactions with former officer Yanez, he was compliant. In a moment when Black bodies are subjected to all manner of violence for non-compliance -- most viscerally in schooling environments, where non-compliance might simply entail asking a question -- Mr. Castile chose compliance.


A high school graduate who had been employed as nutrition specialist and supervisor in the Saint Paul Public School district for nearly 15-years at the time of his death, we have no idea whether Mr. Castile’s pants sagged, whether former officer Yanez could discern if Mr. Castille had provocative tattoos or a gold tooth, only that he suspected Mr. Castile as a suspect in a robbery, in part, because of his “wide-set nose.”; hundreds of thousands of Black men would have been stopped and likely killed based on that criteria, as Mr. Castile himself -- a municipal employee just like former officer Yanez -- had been stopped 52 times for suspected minor traffic infractions.


Historically young Blacks have been implored to be compliant in their interactions with law enforcement; then as now, compliance has not been useful armor against the brutalization of Black bodies. Compliance, like civility, has often been a ruse within systems of White Supremacy, used as a  controlling mechanism that has little interest in our well-being. There are many who believe that literally beating Black youth over the head with demands for compliance -- what we witness in the surveillance and policing of Black youthfulness in formal schooling environments -- will actually save Black youth.  As someone who spent much of his adult life in such school environments, Mr. Castile might have held such beliefs himself. Compliance didn’t save Mr. Castile; it won’t save us.


Mark Anthony Neal is a professor of African and African-American Studies at Duke University, North Carolina, USA. He curates the critically-acclaimed blog, NewBlackMan (in Exile).



Compliance Won’t Save You: It Didn’t Save Mr Philando Castile

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