Matthew A. Cherry is a black, American filmmaker. His latest film, 9 Rides, premiered at SXSW 2016. We asked him if he would like to share his thoughts on the violence that has rocked this country over the past three days, and this is what he wrote.
What do you do when you're sick and tired of being sick and tired? What do you do when the peaceful protests and trending topics have given away to outrage and anger? What do you do when you hear about yet another black man being killed by the police in broad daylight and on camera and know the possibility of justice being served are little to none? You feel helpless.
I have never known what it must feel like to be in close proximity of the police and feel safety or comfort knowing they have my best interest at heart. It's not about being a thug or being educated—the message is clear that we live in a country where the very color of our skin makes us a target. We live in a country where any police interaction with a person of color can lead to a murder or some other form of brutality. It makes you not want to bring kids into the world. It makes you not want to go outside at all. It makes you go through pictures of your social media and start deleting images that you know may be used after your murder to vilify you.
As a black filmmaker, I feel an obligation to tell stories that can hopefully impact the culture of gun violence and the oppression of black people in America so one day, people start seeing us as fully realized human beings. In truth, we are all filmmakers in that we all have cell phones capable of filming police brutality.
Film the police as often as you can because you never know when it might be your loved one who needs that video evidence to clear their name. I am glad there are more viral videos of police brutality being caught on camera, but I know that seeing the deaths of my people at the hands of so-called authority figures on continuous loops every single day is affecting my psychological well being.
How is there more outrage over Harambe, a gorilla, being killed to protect a small child at the Cincinnati Zoo than there is over the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile? What does it say about our nation that the first thing we do when he hear a person of color has been killed by the police is to do a background check to see if we perceive the killing to be justified? We all make mistakes and we all have a past, but this does not justify the execution, and vilifying of black people.
Yes, Black Girls Are Magic and Black Lives Matter but we are clearing far from getting these message to the right people. They still have to see us as full human beings. Black people are always told to be strong when faced with injustices and always told to pray and to seek peaceful resolutions, but clearly our oppressors aren't willing to offer us the same respect.
As a black man living in America today, I am just as sad and angry about the 5 police officers who lost their lives yesterday in Dallas as I am about Alton Sterling, Philando Castille, Dylan Noble, Walter Scott, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, and countless others. And we won't truly be free until America starts to see us as real people with loving families—mothers and fathers, and sons and daughters, some educated and others with street savvy and all of the complexities that come with being human beings. Stop putting black people on trial for our own murders and stop the senseless killings of everyone! An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.