As policymakers continue to ignore the risks and burdens created by the unfair presumption that people of color are guilty and dangerous, two Black men were fatally shot by police in two American cities within the past two days.
In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, two white officers confronted 37-year-old Alton B. Sterling (pictured) at about 12:35 a.m. Tuesday, the New York Times reported. A graphic video taken by a bystander on a cellphone and released later in the day shows an officer pushing Mr. Sterling onto the hood of a car and tackling him to the ground. Mr. Sterling was pinned to the ground by the two officers when at least one of them fatally shot him.
Yesterday, the Justice Department opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting and the officers have been placed on administrative leave. Mr. Sterling’s 15-year-old son cried inconsolably during a press conference yesterday as his mother and other family members joined elected officials and local leaders in demanding answers and accountability from police. Local NAACP president Mike McClanahan called on the police chief to resign.
Last night at around 9 p.m., the New York Times reported that a Black man identified as 32-year-old Philando Castile was fatally shot by police in Falcon Heights, a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota. A graphic video taken by Mr. Castile’s girlfriend and streamed live on Facebook shows him unconscious and bloody in his seat as an officer points a gun through the car window. The girlfriend says on the video that Mr. Castile was pulled over for a broken taillight, told officers he had a licensed firearm in the car, and was reaching for his wallet when he was shot.
EJI has been arguing that a national effort is needed to confront America’s history of racial injustice. Without a commitment to confronting implicit bias in the criminal justice system as well as the overt bias that endangers Black and brown people during many police encounters, these tragic events will continue.