Philando Motherfucking Castile
Philando Castile is the best name in America right now.
In 1955, Rosa Parks did what Claudette Colvin could not. Claudette Colvin was calculatedly dismissed by civil rights leadership, and history changed. Because the point was to win over basically racist white people to seeing blacks as human, which meant they had to choose a superhuman for the banner.
Allies make every revolution. The 13 colonies would not have become the United States without France. Gandhi had to lead hundreds of thousands of Indians to their literal doom before white people said, “Enough. Our arms are tired from beating them.” Jewish freedom riders getting lynched did more for black civil rights than the march on Selma, because it made the North go “Huh. Damn. Hey Lyndon, what about this?”
The sporadically effective Black Lives Matter movement shoots itself in its ass-kicking foot when it chooses poster boys like Michael Brown, on video for strongarm robbery five minutes before a cop shot him. No, he shouldn’t have been shot. And no, he doesn’t make a good flag for potential allies who look at him and think, “Well, that guy’s an asshole.” I’ve dealt with a half-dozen white people today who used Michael Brown as an illustrative corollary to the murder of five Dallas police officers. This is a very real obstacle to unity.
You’re mad? You’re righteous? Good. Not enough. It’ll take being smart, too. How many times are we going to be able to get it up for civil disobedience? We have to put all our momentum into a few well-timed swings. We have to hit hard with the best weapons we can find, and we have to manufacture those weapons ourselves. Weapons like Philando Castile.
Last night in Dallas was about deranged people acting deranged. We’ve seen it before. It’s as fucked up to shoot cops as it is to shoot anyone. When black people are kept in dangerously deprived communities with no help but their own, some of them will feel they have to resort to killing cops, and that’s not just terribly wrong, it’s counterproductive.
They’ll lose. And I’ll lose too because, while I’m as white as a guy with a Mexican grandmother can be, I’m black, too. Because I’m a fucking American. Let’s not let the NRA and the racists turn last night in Dallas into a misdirection and derail the good that needs doing.
Police reform is not a specifically black problem anyway: cops kill a lot more white people. Many deserve it. Many don’t. But to stop it, we all need a rallying point, a cause, some icon that will appeal across race, across class.
Philando Castile is made to order. Black guy, black name, black style, middle-class working man, licensed gun owner, no criminal record, on camera being shot for absolutely no reason (on his 32nd traffic stop in 15 years!) by a police officer. Let’s go with him on police reform. He’s an ideal martyr.
Blacks recognize him; white liberals recognize him; gun-rights advocates recognize him; libertarians recognize him; international allies recognize him. He’s a career profiling victim. He’s as close as Black Lives Matter is going to come to a saint. Tamir Rice was an even better opportunity, but unfortunately his killing was overshadowed by protests over a dick like Michael Brown.
Philando Castile. Let’s run with this one.
Because critical mass is what it takes, I’m going out to join a protest this weekend. It’s not easy; not as easy as not doing it. I don’t have enough black friends. When thousands of people attend a rally, they don’t tell me about it beforehand because I never ask.
I’m going out in the street to scream, in actual physical solidarity with the victims of systematic dehumanizing abuse, before I’m one of them, and before I’m too old and feeble to do it. If you’ve got kids, don’t bring them. If you’re not fit enough to run for your life, don’t come. If you are, you can watch TV or you can be on it.