Today a Terrorist Was Set Free: Philando Castile, Whiteness and Terrorism

White folks, a terrorist was set free today and it is our fault.

This is not hyperbole nor a rhetorical device. I mean it in the most literal and concrete sense. Today, when Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted and absolved of all accountability for his actions the day he stole Philando Castile’s life, a terrorist walked free.

Merriam Webster defines terrorism as: the systemic use of terror especially as means of coercion. The genocide that white supremacy is perpetuating against Black people via the police and criminal justice system certainly qualifies. The number of Black parents genuinely asking “What do I tell my child?” should bring our country to a grinding halt.  Answering this question should sideline any other issue, and demand the entirety of our collective energy. Yet, it remains a “special interest,” a “controversial topic.” Our inability, no, our unwilllingness to engage that question is facilitating death. There is blood on our hands. I, for one, must do something about that.


We know each other well, us white folks. When it comes to race we rarely say what we know to be true. Still, we know each other well. We know that it is the unsaid, the silence, that conveys the most meaning. We know we aren’t surprised. We see the posts proclaiming our disbelief “that this could happen in 20XX,” and we know that’s not true. We know that we know. We know this is the legacy of slavery. We know the deep anti-Blackness at the heart of this country. We know our ancestors danced with the devil, and we are living that curse today. We know there is a void. We feel the disconnect. We know the price this country demands for acceptance. We know.

We see it in our dedication to not seeing color. We see it in the rise of Trump. We see it in the hate crimes sweeping the country. We see it in the lack of diversity in our social groups, in our neighborhoods, and in our workplaces. We see it in Sean Hannity and Fox News. We see it in every “nope I have a Black friend,” and every “race has nothing to do with it.” We see it in our discomfort and nervousness. In our overcompensation. In our panic.

There is simply no way not to know.

It is time to tell the truth. We need to be honest with ourselves and others. But, we are scared of the truth. We are scared when we acknowledge what we already know that we will become that ugliness. We are scared that what little we have will be taken from us. We are scared of our weakness. We are scared because we have been given nothing else but whiteness. But nothing could be farther from the truth. Whiteness is grotesque; it distorts and deforms everything it touches. Our only chance for beauty, for strength, for community, for peace, for wellness is its complete and total rejection.

I started by claiming we were complict in facilitating terrorism and absolving a terrorist. That is because we know the truth: whiteness is terrorism. When we fail to confront it we are guilty of its perpetuation. Whiteness has only one purpose: to pacify folks with similar material interests by dividing them by color. The color line justified chattel slavery, the apartheid system known as Jim Crow, and is now justifying mass incarceration and the extrajudicial killings of Black people. There has literally never been a time in our history when Blackness has been accepted as equal. That is systemic terror. When we follow up that objective history with rhetoric meant to convince Black folks they deserve it, and that all has been made well. That if they just “acted right” or “listened to instructions” all would be well. Anything so that they will accept their own oppression. That is coercion.

Whiteness is terrorism plain and simple. The question remains: What are we going to do about it?





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