I’ve been avoiding watching the video(s) of Alton Sterling getting shot on Tuesday by police officers in Baton Rouge, not because I want to pretend like these things don’t happen, aren’t happening, but because I can’t have those images in my head and still be able to sleep at night. But I still can’t sleep peacefully because whether I watch the videos or not, these atrocities keep happening. I go to bed and wake up to another story about the same ish. It’s not ending is it?
No, on Tuesday a black man is shot to death by police in Louisiana and on Wednesday another black man, Philando Castile, is shot to death by police in Minnesota while a 4-year-old girl sits in the back seat and watches it happen. In this case a video of the aftermath was shared by Castile’s girlfriend Diamond Reynolds on Facebook and I know I can’t watch this video either because it will haunt me for the rest of my life.
I find myself tiptoeing through the internet trying to read news stories about both of these incidents without watching the videos and it’s hard. On one website, the video of Alton Sterling getting shot started automatically playing on the sidebar and I did see some of it and worse, I heard some of it. On Facebook, I saw just the beginning of Reynolds’ video as a bloody Castile was slumped next to her with life bleeding out of him. I couldn’t close it fast enough. I didn’t need to see that. I really didn’t.
I have anxiety disorder and PTSD, watching these videos will do nothing good for me. They will tear me apart and I’ll have to work very hard at building myself back up, but even though I don’t want to see these videos, I am grateful that they exist because there are some people who do NEED to see these videos. I commend the people who took them and shared them because clearly it has become every citizen’s responsibility to hold the powers that be accountable and for some seeing is believing.
ALSO READ: What Anxiety Disorder Feels Like to Me
Would people be outraged over the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile without the videos? I’m sure some would, but not all. There would be the apologists, there would be the ones that would say, “Well, we don’t know what happened, we weren’t there.” There would be those that just because the men who got shot were black would give the benefit of the doubt to the police. It’s kind of hard to stay blind when you can actually see some of what happened.
It pains me that these videos exist. It pains me that everyday citizens found themselves in situations where all they could do was pull out their phones and shoot video when guns were shot. And yet, these videos are crucial. They make it impossible to deny that certain things happened. Coupled with the power of sharing through social media they may be the most powerful weapon we have against injustice.
I can’t watch these videos, I don’t want to see them, I wish they wouldn’t automatically play on some websites, but I’m glad they exist because this stuff isn’t staged, this stuff is real and it’s ugly and it’s wrong and it needs to change NOW.
The revolution may not be televised, but it will be streamed in grainy video, it will be shared, it will be seen and it can no longer be denied.