America, The Beautiful Fucking Joke

Philando Castile (Facebook)
Philando Castile (Facebook)

Moments before I planned on going to bed last night, I checked Instagram to find the source of a few notifications I received earlier that evening. While browsing through my feed, I came across an autoplay video of a man in what seemed to be a blood-caked shirt laying in a car and staring up at its ceiling. I thought it was odd that someone would share this clip, and I spent a few seconds wondering what it was (A deleted scene from a movie? A crime scene reenactment? A satiric hood PSA?) before clicking away. It didn't even cross my mind that I was watching someone die. Because of course something like this wouldn't even be on Instagram. Especially not yesterday. Of course it wasn't real. Of course it had to be some sort of joke.

And then, minutes later, I learned what each of you surely already know by now. That I did just watch someone die. That that someone's name was Philando Castile. That he was murdered during a routine traffic stop. (A busted tail light.) That he was shot and killed while reaching for his wallet; something the police officer who murdered him asked him to do. That we know of all of this because Castile's girlfriend (Lavish Reynolds) was also in the car and recorded the entire thing. That Reynolds's young daughter was in the car too, and can be heard consoling her mother.

The absurdity of writing a piece explaining why I hadn't yet watched the murder of Alton Sterling only to accidentally watch another and even more graphic murder of another Black man that same day — and not even realize what I was watching while I was watching it — hasn't been lost on me. It's never been more obvious that America is a fucking farce. That "America" is actually a Mel Brooks-produced and directed depiction of America called America, where the crimes levied against Black people get increasingly and comically more graphic and more harrowing and more perplexing while we collectively attempt to find new ways to ignore or excuse them. Yesterday it was a man selling DVDs restrained by two police officers and shot by another. Last night it was a man in a car with his girlfriend and his girlfriend's daughter murdered after doing, again, exactly what the officer asked him to do. What will it be tomorrow? A firing squad gunning a Charlotte grandmother down while she's leaving Trader Joe's? A 17-year-old honor student on his way to work rammed and impaled by a police cruiser? A pregnant school principle flayed alive by a group of plain clothed detectives who believed she was hiding weapons and weed in her skin?


It's your move now, America, you beautiful fucking joke. Tell us how far you can go; show us how fucking funny you can be. We'll be here all night.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)

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Woke up today feeling pretty good. Then I saw this on my timeline. Then I found out dude was the same age I was yesterday. His birthday is tomorrow. Mine is today. Helluva way to celebrate a new year of life.