Why It Doesn't Matter Whether or Not Alton Sterling Was a "Good Guy"

  1. Every time another black man is killed by a police officer, the media is flooded with stories about the victim's character.
  2. Defendants of the police will search for every hint of a mistake the victim has ever made in order to make him seem as thuggish (and guilty) as possible.
  3. Defendants of the victim seek out stories from family and friends of the victim's gentle and generous spirit, his care for his children, and his dreams of attending college or starting his own business.
  4. The truth of the matter is probably somewhere in between. Victims aren't saints or devils. They're human beings. They make good choices and bad choices. They love and hurt and struggle and succeed. They are HUMAN.
  5. And that, more than any other argument about whether or not the victim is "good" or "bad," is what matters.
  6. You see, our justice system is meant to protect and serve all humans, whether good or bad.
  7. It is intended to give people, deserving or not, the right to due process and a fair trial.
  8. No human being should be killed while laying on their stomach, restrained by two police officers.
  9. Even if that human mugged someone. Even if they were drunk. Even if they did drugs in high school. Even if they had a record. Even if they robbed a bank. EVEN IF THEY'RE GUILTY.
    Which, by the way, I'm not saying is the case with any of the victims.
  10. The justice system has to work for the guilty and the innocent or it's not a justice system at all.
  11. Should a guilty person be arrested? Absolutely. Have a fair trial? Definitely. Be convicted and serve time in prison? Yes.
  12. Should a person be shot on the spot by police officers who somehow feel threatened by a black man lying on the ground? Absolutely not.
  13. I am heartbroken over what happened to Alton Sterling. And the fact that he was a good friend and father makes my heart hurt even more.
  14. But you know what? I'd be angry even if he wasn't a "good guy."
  15. Because what matters isn't his guilt or innocence, but the fact that police officers are now playing judge and jury. This man was not only denied a fair shake in the justice system (which let's be honest, has its own biases and problems that deserve another list), he was denied his very life.
  16. How dare we decide whether he "deserved it" or base our anger or our mourning on whether or not he was a good guy. Alton Sterling was a human being. And our system failed him. Something is terribly wrong.