Originally posted 6/23/16
I’m used to pain when I read the news. The two are usually intertwined. It’s a trope, perhaps even a joke, that the news is always so bad and so depressing and why can’t we just talk about something positive, you know? Over the years I’ve tailored my news sources to the most vetted, most objective* sources I could find, limiting the impact of pain pundits are paid to inflict. I have developed my own version of self-care techniques: don’t read the comments for too long, walk away from Facebook for awhile, find something fun, etc. I’m used to the pain of being informed and how to manage that.
Still, you can’t prepare for everything.
The Seattle Police Department has a video game live stream series called Fuzzfeed206. The concept piggybacks on the popularity of Twitch and is used as a kind of lure to get citizens interested in the behind the scenes work of the police department. In better, more competent hands this could be the first step in actual community engagement, which has been proven time and time again to be vital in improving race relations with police. But this isn’t that. Instead it’s an opportunity for the SPD to talk at the citizens, not with.
Yesterday SPD made such a video to talk about the murder of Charleena Lyles. I’d hope that I wouldn’t have to go any further in explaining why that’s incredibly insensitive and cruel, but the mere fact that the video exists suggests otherwise. Right away SPD Sgt. Sean Whitcomb concedes “this episode will be a little on the heavier side”, as if that note is enough. And then he spends the rest of 30 minutes explaining the SPD’s side of the case while playing Destiny, a first-person shooter. Enough of a stir up must have occurred after the initial posting because the video is down. However screenshots of the original tweet and a new upload can still be found.
I’ve been trying for hours now to encapsulate how this kind of total disregard to the gravity of this situation hurts so damn much. I can’t find words that speak to how invisible I feel as a black woman, that even in death there is no guarantee those in power will have the decency to see me as a human being. The mainstream media has not picked up on this story, for whatever reason. I can’t imagine that would be the case if Charleena Lyles hadn’t been on the bottom of the American social totem pole - poor, black, female, and dealing with a mental illness. Countless videos have suggested Charleena would have lived if she had been higher up. And the complexity of it all is that none of this new to me. Far from it. But this video is so blatant in its apathetic nature that I’m left stunned. It’s as if I’ve been stabbed in a new place. The pain is both familiar and fresh.
I don’t even know what I want anymore, or rather, I don’t care to ask. It’s a privilege for me to even be feeling this sort of pain. Surely my grandmother remembers this wound, probably my mother to a lesser extent. The fight is different today. It’s no longer a war for basic human rights on a minute by minute level, it’s a war of dismantling and intersectionality and microaggressions and explaining why better police training is necessary. It’s a war of the subtle pain, almost all about covert racism unless the white robes and salutes are out.
They aren’t this kind of tone-deaf, public displays of ambivalence.
I don’t know how to end this, except to cite this study one more time.
* Yes, no source is perfectly objective, everyone has a bias, don’t let the media influence you…blah blah blah. You still have to be aware of what’s going on around you and you as an active, informed citizen have to do the work of pulling from multiple vetted sources to learn how to discern fact from opinion, so spare me.
**Passing the mic to someone who does live in Seattle
If you can, leave a tip in the tip jar. Today was especially taxing.