Honoring Philando Castile

On July 6, 2016, Philando Castile was shot and killed by Jeronimo Yanez, a St. Anthony, Minnesota, police officer, after being pulled over in Falcon Heights, a suburb of Saint Paul. (Wikipedia)
On May 30, 2017, his killer was acquitted of all charges.
I went to the range with two boxes of bullets. My gun was on my hip, my CCW in my back pocket. I had a spare magazine and a few targets the size of a sheet printer paper.
As a Black gun owner, I was honoring Philando Castile as a brother, not a victim.
I had considered writing about the case, but how much has already been written? Probably thousands of pages of outrage. People have discussed Philando Castile’s death from nearly every perspective. They have looked through the videos over and over.
I don’t have the stomach to see his girlfriend plead for his life on an endless loop. Especially when we already know that the next case will likely have the same outcome, and “I feared for my life…” will continue to be a get out of jail free card when Black men and women are killed by police.

In this country, having the right, and having that right respected are two different things; especially if you’re Black. The gap between them is where action takes place. It’s where activists are made. But you can’t run from it.

I could get angry at the NRA for not immediately coming to his aid, but why? They have a history of motivating their membership with the chorus of racist dog whistles. It is a formula that worked for them for a very long time. I don’t expect them to change.
These are the people that we are taking to task for not advocating for a fallen Black man. Not the police, who were supposed to protect him, but a  lobbyist group that makes much of its money by appealing to the fears of a frightened White minority.
I’m unbothered by the NRA being the NRA.
I’m also not a member.
So how do we process his death?

Become a Gun Owner

Even if you don’t know anything else about the Civil Rights Movement, you know that the Lunch Counters weren’t for us. So young men and women stormed the counters. They took a stand.
They didn’t do it for the food or because they loved the service. They did it because, despite the fact that people thought they didn’t have a right to be there, they knew otherwise.
Philando might have suffered in the end, but he had every right to carry, and he knew it. So did Clarence Daniels, a 62-year-old man who was tackled by a vigilante as he entered a Wal-Mart to buy coffee creamer. So did Corey Jones, a church musician who was lawfully carrying a firearm. Like Castile, he was gunned down by a police officer. Read more here.
In this country, having the right, and having that right respected are two different things; especially if you’re Black. The gap between them is where action takes place. It’s where activists are made. But you can’t run from it.

Get instruction

It’s funny how many people overlook this.
Too many movies where the hero killed dozens of bad guys after a five-minute training sequence.
Too many self-proclaimed experts giving bad advice – the uncle that served in the Army, the cousin who knew a cop, the guy you saw on YouTube.
Find a qualified instructor. One who is versed in the laws in your area. One who prioritizes safety over everything else. He or she can guide you in what gun might suit your purposes and help you find the kind of gear that will enable you to carry it efficiently and indiscreetly.
Responsible gun owners see it as an investment, not a purchase.
Training and gear are every bit as important as the gun.
Find guidance.

Become a Legal Scholar

When it comes to Criminal Justice, the deck is stacked against us. This is well documented. So why would you miss an opportunity to slip a card up your sleeve?
Learn the law. Whether or not you carry, it will give you confidence when you’re pulled over. Even if you feel absolutely powerless with the police officer, at least you will have a leg up when it goes before a judge.
If you do choose to carry, that knowledge will guide you if you ever have to use force to defend yourself. What  you say, or don’t say, afterwards could be the difference between freedom and a lengthy prison sentence.

Learn from Philando’s Death

This is where we get into that sensitive area between analyzing a scenario and blaming the victim.
I don’t think Philando should have died that day.
I don’t think that the Jeronimo Yanez was fit to wear a badge. He was skittish and so a stop that didn’t have to happen in the first place turned into a murder scene. And it could have been worse. Those bullets passed directly into the back seat where his girlfriend’s daughter was sitting.
Now, did you know that in Minnesota, you have no legal obligation to tell the police you are legally carrying unless they ask you?
Following his death, dozens of Black men and women shared their stories about being pulled over by the police. Many of them said that once they told the officer about their concealed carry license or firearm, they stood perfectly still with their hands in plain view, and waited for the officer to prompt them.
I’m not pointing this out to shift the blame from Yanez to Castile.
None of these guarantee that Castile would be alive today.
But as a Black gun owner, I have to develop a plan for getting pulled over. It’s going to happen eventually.

Discover your history

Buffalo Soldiers, Troop C, 9th Cavalry, pictured here at Camp Lawton in Washington before shipping out to the Philipines in 1900.
It was soldiers and former solders who took up arms and repelled the race riots in DC.
You need to know the true stories of Tulsa, and Rosewood. You need to know about Sam Carrier, Rosa Parks and TRM Howard. Because the truth is, even during Jim Crow, our heroes were pretty absolute about protecting their lives and their families.
They realized their lives were in danger. They  also knew full well, that the laws could be leveraged against them for arming themselves.
You say the 2A isn’t for you? Try telling that to Fannie Lou Hamer, a woman whose life was under threat simply because she wanted to exercise the right to vote. Another one of those rights that we are taught aren’t for us. Try telling that to Ida B. Wells, who proclaimed that the Winchester Rifle deserved a place of honor in every Black home.
Saying 2A isn’t for us sounds too much like giving up. Especially when it is voiced by men and women who aren’t necessarily pro gun in the first place. It’s hard to lament the fact that you don’t have a constitutional right, when it is a right that you wouldn’t mind seeing stripped from the Constitution.
Meanwhile, Baltimore is pushing to impose mandatory one year sentences for illegal gun possession.
If you think your 2A rights are being infringed upon, then flex them and value them.
Stop voting for measures that will chip away at them.
It’s that simple.

8 thoughts on “Honoring Philando Castile

  1. Why not tell people to keep their hands still, and on the wheel until instructed by the cop? Then move very slowly. This would have served Castille better than your race card.

  2. I know that it is trendy and easy to bash the NRA. They generally make little effort to defend themselves they do not benefit from trying to defend vague charges of racism. If you can name an actual incident of the organization being racist let me know. Otherwise it is just a lazy straw-man that I find tiresome. They don’t need me to defend them. They have much better spokespersons then I could ever be. Who HAVE spoken out on the tragedy. It is no surprise that they did not speak out much before the trial. First reports are often misleading or completely wrong. They are not in the business of blaming the POLICE as a group for the actions of individuals. They will and should be very careful to continue that policy.

    I must admit that I am wary of juries that are so reluctant to second guess the life and death decisions of the Police and Police unions that protect bad cops from the repercussions of their bad behavior. In theory I recognize jurors reluctance, but I think it is dangerous to police officers who are doing things right. It leaves us citizens with the impression that the Police are above the law, with special privileges and more equal then the rest of us. That impression will continue to make many believe that the Police are the enemy. That is very dangerous for all of us.

    The rest of your article I enjoyed and agree with without issue. Keep up the mostly good work.

  3. Okay, thanks for your comment.
    I’m going to be up front with you. There is no objective measurement of racism, and there are probably a half dozen definitions that all kind of contradict each other. I could give you an honest answer and nine people might agree with me, but that won’t change anything. If you don’t agree, you don’t agree. I’m okay with that. I don’t think it makes you a bad person.
    Honestly, I’m just as tired of writing about them as you are of reading about them. Unfortunately, I have one more piece in the pipe before I move on. Then I’m done with it.
    I actually don’t think that the police are my enemy. Most of my interactions have been very professional, so I know that there are good guys out there. Unfortunately, I can also point to a handful of truly shitty and dangerous interactions with them. When I’m pulled over, I hope for the best but I know how quickly things can slide off of the rails. It shouldn’t be like that.

  4. If I’d done that I would have only had a six word story, and I wouldn’t have gotten this excellent comment.
    Thanks for the advice, though.

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