Thursday, September 29, 2022

The Journal of Steffanie Rivers: FEAR of a Black Planet

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A dying Philando Castile

*If there ever was a case where the National Rifle Association should stand in support of a man’s second amendment right to bear arms, Philando Castile is that man. Castile had a valid permit to carry a gun when he fatally was shot by police during a traffic stop last week in St. Anthony, Minnesota. But the NRA has remained silent . I wonder why? Nevermind, I know why.

In the aftermath of mass shootings across the United States one would think those elected officials who claim stronger federal gun laws will infringe on the second amendment rights of Americans would have spoken out against the officer who shot Castile because he exercised his right to carry a gun. But no press conference yet. I wonder why not? Nevermind, I know why not.

The NRA and members of Congress should be outraged, vocal and in lock-step agreement that Castile’s civil rights were violated in the worst way. But mum’s the word.

Everytime a person of color is beaten, shot or killed under questionable circumstances by a member of law enforcement – the people sworn to protect and serve them – detractors are quick to explain it away:

If there’s no video, they say it’s a case of ‘he said, she said.’ When police body cameras mysteriously don’t record the altercation it’s written off as a technical mishap. And if there is video of the incident, they say the angle doesn’t show what really happened or the video could have been altered.

What will they say to explain away the video streamed live on Facebook showing the moments after police fatally shot Castile last week? The attorney of Jeronimo Yanez, the police officer who stopped Castile’s vehicle, said there was more to the traffic stop than just a broken tail light. But Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, said that’s the reason Yanez told Castile he was being stopped. And when Castile told the officer he had a license to carry the gun that was in his car, the officer told Castile to show his driver’s license and registration. Still Yanez said he was “reacting to the presence of a gun” when he shot Castile four times in front of Reynolds and her four-year-old daughter as the trio sat in the car. That’s an admission to the violation of Castile’s right to carry a gun under Minnesota law and a violation of his civil rights under the U.S. Constitution.

In his four years on the police force, Yanez must have pulled over other drivers carrying handguns legally. But he didn’t shoot them! What makes Castile different? Nevermind, I know the answer.

Now the conversation between black children and their parents has to go farther than to tell them to comply and don’t make any sudden moves if they’re pulled over by police. Must they only drive pristine cars hoping they don’t get pulled over by THAT officer harboring fears of a black planet? And if – GOD forbid – they do get pulled over by THAT officer, must they start live streaming video first, then put their hands on the dashboard next to their ID and registration before police have a chance to claim they ‘fear(ed) for their lives’ and start shooting? What must a black man to do to remove the target from his back? Not even becoming president of the United States is good enough.

The day Barack Obama was elected POTUS – a feat many people thought never would happen in America – plans were set in motion to return the White House to the kind of person some think is the righful occupant: A white, elitist male who says what most of his constituents are thinking, but are too afraid to say. A man who uses his influence to increase only himself and his allys while minimizing the accomplishments of others, especially if they don’t look like him or think like him or he can’t benefit from them. A person who thinks if the spotlight isn’t shining on him there must be something wrong with the spotlight. The pendulum of prejudice has swung all the way to the extreme right leaving dead black males in its wake. I don’t know which is worse: Being an invisible man or being too visible, man! Sometimes progress feels like nothing more than a trip around the block.

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Steffanie Rivers

Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas, Texas metroplex. Email her at to comment, ask questions or for speaking inquiries.



  1. I can’t believe they shot this man for no reason, he done the right thing by getting a gun permit and he even told the cop he had a gun and permit and then gets shot. That is just not right. I would hate to be a black man in the USA. I feel so bad for his child and family. What is wrong with the cops???? I know they have a hard job but damn this man told him he had a gun in the car and a permit. Why not just order him out the car??? Why shoot and ask questions later. SMDH.

    • I believe the young man made the mistake of believing that once he told the officer he had a legal firearm, he was supposed to give it to him. However, you can never tell a cop you have a gun, legal or not, and then take your hands off the steering wheel. You have to keep you hands on the steering wheel and wait for the officer to relieve you of the weapon. No officer would tell you to reach for anything if he knows you’re carrying. I also believe what may have happened is the girlfriend wanted to be sure the cop knew her boyfriend’s weapon was legal and registered, and when she told the cop, the boyfriend, not thinking about protocol, automatically reached for the gun to give it to the cop. If you think about it logically, it doesn’t seem likely that a cop would tell you to produce ID when he knows you have a weapon. And he certainly wouldn’t just stand in front of you if you start reaching for something after he tells you to not move. I don’t think this young man was some thug out to get cops, and I don’t believe this cop put on his uniform intent on killing anyone that day. I think they both made mistakes in the heat of the moment that, unfortunately cost this young man his life. My heart aches for his mother and I pray for strength and faith for his family.

      • That’s just it, ladys101, what cops like this do – shoot innocent people, is NOT logical. Stop trying to rationalize what they’re doing. They are bulleys with guns who are killing people because they don’t value their lives. And they continue to get away with it.

  2. “Cops like this”. Kind of like “blacks like this”. What’s not logical is lumping a group of people you know absolutely nothing about into an obscure category that only exist in your head. Btw. Cops like what?

    • Cops like the ones who shoot or kill people with no rational provocation. People who disproportionately are black males. Black males like Oscar Grant, Robbie Tolan, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Alton Sterling, and PhilandoCastile to name a few. You see, it’s not in my mind. It’s our reality. And the reality is people like you who can look at video of these incidents and still come up with excuses for the inhumane behavior of cops like this are part of the problem.

  3. Disproportionately black males? What makes you say that? And as far as inhumane behavior goes, if Alton Sterling had impregnated my 14 year old, there wouldn’t have been enough of him left for the police to struggle with.

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