we need valerie castile’s righteous black rage

June 26, 2017

By Devyn Springer for WearYourVoiceMag*, AFROPUNK contributor

A little under a year ago on July 6th, Philando Castile was shot and killed by officer Jeronimo Yanez while driving with his girlfriend and her four-year-old daughter. What was supposed to be a simple traffic stop turned into a death sentence for Castile —an occurrence that is beginning to seem routine for Black people.Castile’s death went viral causing mass protests and uprisings across the U.S. and particularly in Minnesota, where the killing occurred. This was largely due to the fact that Castile’s girlfriend Diamond Reynolds, live-streamed the tragedy on Facebook.

While the medical examiners ruled Castile’s death a homicide – stating he had sustained multiple gunshot wounds – last week, Officer Yanez was acquitted of all charges sparking a new round of nationwide protests, upset, and Black rage.

While the majority of us are aware of the dangers of putting our hopes for justice into the same system responsible for our deaths, Black America also intently awaits for the chance to taste tiny slivers of victory by sending murderous officers to jail.

With such a high-profile police brutality case accompanied with a viral video, mournful family members taking space on various media platforms, and nationwide protesting – perhaps we’d been convinced we would see Officer Yanez behind bars. However, shortly after the verdict was announced, Philando Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, vocalized many of Black America’s sentiments when she sternly stated: “I’m mad as hell right now, yes I am.”

When Valerie spoke to the press following the ruling, there was anger and frustration that rose through her voice, all wrapped in a justifiable mournfulness. She described what occurred to her son as a “murder,” and said she “will continue to say murder,” because her son told the truth, did nothing wrong, and was “still murdered by the police of Minnesota.”

It is painful to watch her speak because it is an anger and a mournfulness that many of us are adjacent to, but do not know. If losing a child is a pain unique to a parent, then losing a child to police violence is a pain even more specific in its brunt hurtfulness.

Later, Valerie posted another video to her Facebook page, directly addressing the situation to her supporters, and she does not hold back. Her tone is shifted out of political correctness, her voice sounds heavy, and she is speaking from her heart, maybe more than ever before in her life. She says, “I been holding myself, trying to be strong, and not say the wrong things because I already know how they get down,” and then lashes deep into the situation, stating “fuck the police!” and “I don’t give no fucks no more!”

It feels like the words have building up within her for the entire year that she’s endured this tragedy – in a two minute and 35-second video, she sheds the constraints of political correctness, peacefulness, and the underlying liberalism that seems to have been holding her true emotions back.

Valerie Castile’s words of anger and mourning mix into a strong potion of Black rage, one that is holy in its justification and righteous in its power. As she states, she is 61-years-old and she has “seen it, smelled it, and heard it” before. What rises from her is a rage similar to the feelings of anger and despair that started the nationwide protests for her son a year ago. The rage we see and feel in her video is such a strong catalyst for protest and resistance, it almost instantly tears people away from centrist liberalism.

As long as anti-Blackness exists, and white supremacist capitalism continues to degrade our humanity, Black rage will always be a stronger catalyst for change than Black pessimism and despair. Like the reason for Pride parades across the nation, or May Day celebrations yearly – it is often a riot or large-scale uprising that precludes effective change, and as Valerie Castile’s “they’re gonna keep on killing us as long as we sit down and just take it!” echoes in our ears, that resonant rage that has often inspired riots, can be felt beating in the chests of Black America.

The rage which follows such maddening killings always seems to draw folks closer to the left and deepen people’s interest in organizing and mobilizing, even if only temporarily sometimes. When Anthony Hill was murdered by Officer Robert Olsen in Atlanta, hundreds saw his girlfriend Bridget Anderson give a tear-inducing speech at a packed church-house, and we saw our numbers grow during our following actions because of this.

When I watched Felicia Thomas, mother of Nicholas Thomas who was murdered by police officers in Georgia, give a speech about her son’s death at a rally – she spoke with such power, emotion and rage that dozens stood up and pledged to fight alongside her to find justice. It is the Black rage we experience – one that is a mixture of a multitude of emotions teetering between despair and anger – that draws us closer to caring and closer to action.

The announcement that Officer Yanez was acquitted of all charges is a depressing and angering one, and it will surely spark a new round of important conversations on police brutality and the lack of justice found in our so-called justice system. Reports say that Valerie Castile yelled “fuck this shit,” as she left the courtroom, and such a statement can only be the universe’s way of foreshadowing the rage that would still set into our chests as we got the news.

If a son’s senseless, and sorrow-inducing murder can be the spark to ignite a stream of resistance to state violence, then a Black mother’s justifiable rage, now holy in its existence outside of the confines of respectability and political correctness, can be the catalyst for a movement stronger than ever.

As her words, tinged with the rage that seems to resonate deeper within us than mournfulness ever can, let us forever resist the racist, systemic “straight-up bullshit” that took Philando Castile away from Valerie Castile.

*This post is in partnership with WearYourVoiceMag.