Video: A community conversation about police shootings and #blacklivesmatter

Submitted by B Kay Richter on July 28, 2016 - 8:48pm

More than 100 San Antonio residents gathered at the Muslim Children Education and Civic Center to watch and reflect on videos of the police-involved shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile (replay video of the conversation below).

A bystander captured video (link here: of the shooting of Alton Sterling outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The girlfriend of Philando Castile streamed video live to Facebook (link here: when he was shot and died after a traffic stop near St. Paul, Minnesota.

"What was your reaction to the video?" Shaykh Omar Husain asked the audience of the often-shown Sterling footage. It's a one-shot kill, shock on the faces of witnesses, shots echoing in the background. "What was your reaction as you saw this video again and again?”

A young man answered quickly.

“It shook me every single which way it could," he said. "We have been this rolling ball of snow, and it continues on every day. But now with the media, more of us are speaking up. We know what the police can do. We have those fears, they are already established... We feel that disconnect. What else more can you do to us that we haven't already been through?"

The discussion did not remain with current events and shootings. But they returned. A much larger discussion regarding race relations throughout history ensued.

“Being a child of the late sixties, I see repetition," an older woman said. "I don't see change. I remember when Martin Luther King Jr. spoke. I remember his words of peace and starting with the boycotts... I agree with the youth today. I see a small change. I don't see a large change.”

She shared a memory from her childhood: her father being beaten by a white man for not moving to the back of a bus.

A young woman said she fears the world in which her son is being raised.

“The only difference is that our technology has changed," she said. "People are less fearful of retaliation and more apt to pull our their cell phone and record regardless of police intimidation."

Inevitably, the great hashtag controversy arose: #blacklivesmatter vs. #alllivesmatter.

One woman said the term #blacklivesmatter doesn't imply that only black lives matter. Rather, it is a way of pointing out something specific, something of which much of the society is unaware, which is that black lives matter.

In contrast, the term #AllLivesMatter “is this blanket statement that is used to pacify people into not actually having these types of discussions or dialogue,” a young woman said. “The United States is a very racist country."

Which brought the discussion to the community’s relationship with police.

A young man said it is hard for him to respect the authority of a police officer.

"They (police) stand together and it is this awful fraternity of people that work together to defend each other for the crimes that they do,” he said.

Another young woman chimed in.

“If I can't trust them, then what's the point?" she asked. "You took that job on. You are held to a higher standard."