It was a sunny afternoon, my best friend and I were on our traditional cruising whip when I was caught off guard by the radio broadcaster’s announcement. The man gave a quick briefing that a group of protesters injured more than 20 police officers. The words coming through the radio were razor sharp with intent to raise concern. I turned the radio down to truly digest the past five days, and the horrors between citizens and the justice system. It’s an overwhelming amount of violence, outrage, fear, and confusion to take, in such a short amount of time . I had a shocking thought, that the upcoming generations will be learning about these days in school, it takes me back to when I was in first grade learning about famous black people and civil rights. I remember having a book from the school library, and the first page I opened it to be a picture of a burnt black man covered in embers and ashes. I can honestly say that was the first time I experienced instant shock. That image has been seared into my memory, I’ll never forget my young heart sinking as I looked at such horror. I get the same feeling every time I see Americans get murdered because of racial stigma. The upsurge in violence affects everyone across the nation, and has us wondering if we are ever safe and protected.
Tensions exploded July 5 th when Alton Sterling was brutally gunned down by a Baton Rouge police officer; Sterling was unarmed and pinned to the ground when officers fired the fatal shots to his chest. The video of Alton Sterling’s death flooded the internet soon after the event. The part that impacted me the most was seeing a man’s chest beat its last beats as every beat pumps blood out of his chest. Sterling’s death caused national outrage and reminds us that there is a problem, a corruption in justice, and racist police. Just as America is trying to cope with the loss of another innocent black man, breaking news released out of Minnesota on July 6 th . Yet another police shooting, killing Philando Castile, an innocent black man for no reason other than a broken tail light. A live video surfaced of Castile’s girlfriend Diamond Reynolds recording the moment after her boyfriend was shot. The police treated Reynolds unprofessionally and took her daughter; she was in distraught talking to the officers. Begging them to tell her Philando was going to be okay, sadly they did not.
It is tremendously disappointing that there is still inequality, and as unfortunate, as it is wrong, that there is still inequality in our nation. White supremacy and white privilege are both a reality, and we live with them in our community every day. Sioux Falls is very fortunate to have primarily good people therefore hate crime, and police brutality is not a big issue here like it is elsewhere. However just because it’s not an escalated problem doesn’t mean it’s not a problem. According to a recent census Sioux Fall’s population consists of 86.8% White, 4.4% are Latino or Hispanic, 4.2% are Black, 2.5% are Biracial, 2.7% are Native American, 1.8% are Asian, and .1% are Hawaiian Native. The gap between white people and any other race is intimidating. Sioux Falls will grow in diversity over time but as a predominately white community we should take the BlackLivesMatter movement more seriously than the AllLivesMatter movement. I feel like some attitudes from white people can be dumbfounding to the actual problems within the black community. The miscommunication might come from some white people feeling like the movement is racist when the movement is not. BlackLivesMatter is an analogy. Imagine a neighborhood full of houses but only one is on fire, there would be no need to spray every home with water but only the one that needs it the most. Black American men are being profiled, beaten, and killed over assumptions. Black American men are being trialed unfairly in our court systems, while white men like Brock Turner gets 6 months in jail for three felony counts of sexual assault. AllLivesMatter doesn’t matter when it’s a black man from being pulled over, and shot, all for reaching for his license and registration.
Some local activist came together to protest for BlackLivesMatter, AllLivesMatter, and awareness of police brutality. People of all races were there to support the protest. It is amazing to see young people gather as leaders to help a community to an equal, and fair society, engaging to bring everyone together regardless their age, or race. It wasn’t just the young and freehearted, but people of all colors, and ages were there for the same reason.. I truly felt lifted by the energy from the people who arrived to protest. It was a nonviolent, peaceful protest, just what David Blackburn had intended it to be. I had the privilege to interview David and ask him a few questions about his protest. First I asked David what the protest is exactly about? and his response was:
“I’m gathering as many people as possible to form a peaceful protest against police brutality. In less than an hour I have over 200 shares, hundreds of likes and close to 100 comments. People really care about this issue. What’s happened over the past couple days is not the sole reason why I’m doing this. It just pushed me past the breaking point. Someone has to say something”.
David and the group of protesters sure did make an impact as many drivers passed by slowing down to read posters and watch protesters. My next question for David was if he thought police brutality was a problem in Sioux Falls, and South Dakota? and his response was on point.
“Of course! It’s a problem everywhere, may not be as common but one occurrence is one too many. Don’t get me wrong, there are good cops out there. In fact I like to believe the majority of police officers hold up to their standards but it only takes that one time to make them all look bad.”
My next questions for David were questions I felt were important for the Sioux Falls white community to try to emphasize with our own local people. I got serious with David and asked him how did the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile impact his life so far and how he thought it impacts the black men in the Sioux Falls community? I hope by asking these questions to David, a black citizen to our city, that some within our white community who might not know a black person, might get an understanding of how and why police shootings are a real threat to them. David answered brilliantly by responding.
“It angers us and as a black man I can speak for the majority of us. Some don’t care at all and that’s another huge problem we face. It makes us feel unsafe because how can something as simple as a traffic stop turn into a brutal murder? If the police continue to get away with unjustified murders what’s stopping the Sioux Falls police from doing the same?”
I was curious on David’s personal view on BlackLivesMatter, and if the protest was strictly in relation of the movement? David said,
“No, I don’t. I support the #AllLivesMatter movement because it’s not just blacks that are brutally beaten or killed unlawfully. It’s every race not just one, I’m biracial myself so If I only supported the black lives matter movement that would be imprudent. We’re all equal and we’re all human.”
My final question for David was wondering what his goals for the protest where and if he expected anything? His passion was in his words, he said
“I want to get as much attention as possible. Not for myself but for the issue at heart. This senseless violence needs to stop. Also I want to show everyone how easy it is to form a movement. It took me an hour to reach over 300 people. Imagine what we could do with a little help from the press and peoples word of mouth?”
David was just one of many compelled to do something, though there were many people there to speak about their feelings toward the movement. Everyone did an excellent job expressing their feelings and creating awareness.
The protest stayed incredibly positive and well behaved and went better than what some of our parents expected. Every word spoken from the brave people to carry on with this movement was beautiful exacerbated with encouragement to our youth. One young lady expressed her fear that her twin brother will be pulled over and be a victim to police brutality. The most heartbreaking moment was seeing the young black boys who already had an understanding of the brutality. It’s unfortunate thinking about the conversation they must have about what to do when a white cop interacts with them; what’s more uncomfortable is imagining that one of them could be a victim to police brutality. The nonblack members if the community can do more to stop the spread of racism. There is no doubt that there are racist sayings, names, references, stereotypes, and people within the city limits and state lines. We can stop saying racist things, and stop laughing, and partaking in the spread of racism. White people need to have conversations with other white people about why AllLivesMatter is a false statement until Black lives start to matter. The most important lesson however is respect and to treat people how you would want to be treated. If people started to do that just a little more, the impact on this world would be tremendous.