He was a dad, he was a citizen of this nation, and he deserved better.
I woke up in tears this morning after watching the details of Alton Sterling's murder on social media all night.
The images played over and over in my head like a broken record: officers slamming Alton against a car, kneeing him in the throat, and shooting him repeatedly. I felt sick.
Sterling is the 558th person killed by the police in the United States in 2016.
Last night and today, I watched the same routine play out. I've seen it so many times before, after police brutality takes another black life. The social media outrage. The Black Lives Matter activists demanding justice. The All Lives Matter mouths countering with ignorance and insensitivity. The frustrating responses from white people who claim to be down with black culture, but who step up only when it's entertaining for them, not when it requires a call to action against discrimination or injustice.
Today, it was too much. I am exhausted by this.
So I cried. I cried, and I breathed heavily, and I sobbed.
And then I looked at photos of my dad and mom. And my brother and sisters. And my aunts and uncles. And my cousins. And my best friends.
They are all at risk when they happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. They are all susceptible to the same fate as Alton Sterling if they cross the wrong person or the wrong cop. They are endlessly ignored, swept under the rug, and subjected to injustice.
Then I got angry.
I got angry because the same system that killed Alton Sterling, that holds a threshold of fear of black men and women across this country, killed Emmett Till in 1955 when he had the "audacity" to flirt with a white woman.
The same system killed Tamir Rice while he was playing with a toy gun on a playground.
It killed Sandra Bland, an animal sciences student minding her own business as she was driving down the road.
It killed Michael Brown, an unarmed, recent high school graduate who was ready to start college.
It killed Rekia Boyd because she was talking too loudly for comfort.
It killed Trayvon Martin when he was walking home to eat his recently purchased Skittles.
Black bodies being brutalized is nothing new in this system.
This brutality has happened for 245 years in every town across this great nation. It happened during the Jim Crow era, when black folks dangled from trees like caricatures.
And it continues to happen. Despite outcry, despite rage, despite calls for change. It continues to happen. And I — along with so many other black people — am hurting. I am tired.
And I am tired of being told that our lives don't matter.
I am tired of being told that if I dress a certain way, talk a certain way, or behave in a certain manner, I'll do just fine.
Because all those things? In this system, they aren't true.
They aren't true when police can put an unarmed man in a chokehold and walk away without so much as a slap on the wrist or when they can kill a child on the playground in what is essentially a legalized drive-by shooting.
The Federal Department of Justice has just announced they are opening a civil rights probe into Alton Sterling's shooting.
This is a surprising step in the right direction for a department that usually defends police officers.
But what can we do? We can be sad. We can be tired. And we can be angry.
We can also demand that officers be held accountable when they use unnecessary force. We can continue yelling that Black Lives Matter, even when people retaliate, until our system proves that black lives actually do matter.
And we can remember Alton Sterling. Like the others, we can say his name.
He was 37 years old. He was a father of five. He was loved by those who knew him.
Say Alton Sterling's name and say the names of all of the black people who have fallen victim to police brutality: Mike Brown. Trayvon Martin. Rekia Boyd. Sandra Bland. Tamir Rice. Eric Garner. Tanisha Anderson. Freddie Gray. Tony Robinson. Walter Scott. And so many more.
And please don't stop saying them until black people get the justice we have always deserved.