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Dear Alton Sterling: A Pledge In Your Passing

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ALTON STERLING MEMORIAL
Mark Wallheiser via Getty Images
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A photo of Alton Sterling and his family is displayed at a memorial Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)

Dear Alton,

It's been more than two days since I first laid my eyes on you, albeit only through video. There you were, standing by a car and talking to two policemen, and in a matter of seconds, you were tackled to the ground, with one "officer of the peace" squatted on you, the other pinning you down on your back. There were words 'He's got a gun! He's got a gun!', some more words, then multiple privilege caliber-ed shots fired towards your chest from inches away. I watched you lie there, vie for breaths as the last ones left you.

Alton, I was well aware of the context of that video before I even watched it  --  posted by this activist voice I follow on Twitter  --  but knowing the context doesn't matter one bit when the content is so overwhelmingly vicious that many I know, like me, are still overcome with visceral anger, frustration, incomprehension, rage and hopelessness:

  • At your callous killers, and of all fallen brothers before you, adding your name to a list that does not seem to near an end.
  • At a system that legitimizes the brazenness and belief that actions of its agency have been just, thereby perpetuates injustice, and refuses to take responsibility of their own direct and indirect culpability.
  • At invariable justifications that your murder will be, as others' has been, subjected to by those that wield the wand of power in the world you leave behind.
  • At the devaluation of life and dehumanization that will ensue, has ensued, rendered by those who refuse to accept fact -- that realities for black and native people (and other people of colour) is vastly different, simply because their lives are inconvenienced by that reality.
  • At inaction and level of communal ignorance, indolence and indifference that drives that inaction.
  • At the continuous denial of effects of hundreds of years of continuous colonization of people, and the collective racial trauma that follows it.
  • At heartless economics of this version of Capitalism that not only render a vast number of black, native and brown people without access to its advantages, but also deprive them of their humanity and the dignity they deserve.
  • At our numerous sisters and brothers of colour who not only comply to ideologies deterrent to the majority of us, but also continue to help the oppressor carry out these tenets and put in practice.

Substantial anger and frustration, Alton, is though directed at myself too, because I, first as a person of colour (as a brown brother), and then as an inhabitant of the same world (in the safety of B.C., Canada), have witnessed this and numerous other crimes, and through my inaction have consequently refused Truth the respect and space it should occupy, and should've. I haven't accepted truth, because it inconveniences my comfort, my life.

Truth has its own language, and it is brutal. And its brutality gets in the way of my pursuit of selfish endeavours, my material temptation, ambitions, and it hurts my conscience, my ego. So, it has always been easier for me to deny, pretend, justify why I don't do even the least that should be required of me.

Even if I don't have the minutest idea of what it means to navigate life as a black person, I pledge that I will always stand in solidarity with those who do. Not only will I open myself to listen to the voices of the community without moderating them, but I will also make my words my protest, my sit-in.

As easy as my denial will continue to be, Alton, I do promise you this: you and others who've been, and will be, denied life, justice and a fair chance at the hands of privilege, injustice and pervasive tentacles of a colonial capitalistic past and present. That I, as a person of colour, will no more be complicit in oppression by inaction or ignorance by silence.

Even if I don't have the minutest idea of what it means to navigate life as a black person, I pledge that I will always stand in solidarity with those who do. Not only will I open myself to listen to the voices of the community without moderating them, but I will also make my words my protest, my sit-in. And if I cannot help in the fight for justice and equality, I will never impede those who can, or those who fight for it, humanely.

More importantly, I pledge to continue to educate myself and others of the currency of struggle against institutionalized and cultural prejudices, of the disparity between various realities. I promise you and others who've fallen, as much.

And one last thing: a day after your passing, just like you and countless others, another one of our brothers, Philando Castile, has fallen victim to a senseless shooting at the hands of those who were meant "to serve and protect" him, among others. And during ensuing protests in Dallas, we also lost five police officers. Neither will any of this bring you or the others back, nor will it alleviate the communal pain or heal the people you leave behind. But many of us will still try.

I hope you find some rest.

In sincerity,
An ally.

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