Dig Baton Rouge

Not the End

By Joseph Coco

During the past year alone I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve felt this specific feeling. This feeling of loss, this feeling of fear and anger that washes over me every time another person dies before their time. You feel powerless, you feel as if there’s no point in the activism you do, the words you say or the dreams you dream; the world seems as if it’s out to get you just for existing. When I saw that the Justice Department would not pursue charges in the Victor White III shooting, that feeling was there once again to haunt me. Yet again, justice would not be found for this person, their family or their community. We’re well beyond the point of calling this clockwork now. Yet again, we all collectively sighed as another person slipped through the cracks without answers or closure, though that does not mean this is the end.

I first learned of the Victor White III case at the Mike Brown Vigil at LSU a year ago, hearing his name being said amongst those who had fallen to police brutality/misconduct. To hear and see one of his friends crying and shouting out, “That was my friend,” was a reminder of the painful reality of the situation. To be able to empathize with that person’s anger and sadness was another type of painful, as many of us understood that we too could very easily be in that position at any given point. Learning that his death was not only in Louisiana, but in New Iberia Parish felt like a punch in the stomach as well. The stinging realization that this happened so close to home still doesn’t sit well with me, and knowing that there’s so much misconduct and fallout up the road from Baton Rouge only adds to my concerns. This tragedy, like many of the tragedies we see happening every day, feels so much more real with it happening near you. And so many months later we still don’t really know exactly what happened to the man who managed to somehow shoot himself with his hands handcuffed behind his back.

I could go on and on about how mystifying the death of Victor was, but I also want to speak to the resilience and power of his family, especially his parents. Bearing witness to their collective strength to advocate for their loved one, to take to the streets to march, protest and simply ask, “why?” While still grieving and questioning the death of Victor, they have shown us strength beyond strength in their pursuit of justice, putting themselves in the public eye even if it means getting some truth and justice out of their situation. But that situation does not only belong to them, nor should it rest solely on their shoulders, it should be our duty to advocate on Victor’s behalf. Offer your support to Victor’s family, offer your support to those working to hold police departments more accountable for their actions and don’t be afraid to speak up yourself if you have to. When you’re remembering those who have fallen, don’t forget Victor’s face and name, don’t forget his smile and his memory. The worst thing we can do sometimes is to remove the imprint people’s stories have left on our hearts, and as long as there is no true justice for Victor, I’m going to keep shouting his name.

I’m sure at this point you’re asking yourself, “What can I do to help” or “What could I even hope to accomplish,” and I just want you to know that by simply reading this story you’re helping. By bearing witness to the stories and lives of people like Victor, you’re already helping out so much, but this is by no means your call to stop. As long as people keep mysteriously dying in the back of police cars, as long as people are having the life choked out of them by police in broad daylight, as long as the never-ending list of victims of police brutality grows, you have to keep saying their names. The moment we start being silent about the lack of accountability and justice around us is the moment things start to fall apart. It is your duty and mine to expand these narratives, spread these stories and to help make sure families like those of Victor White III’s never have to deal with this type of confusion and suffering again. This one is for Victor and for greater justice. You are not forgotten and the fight is most definitely not over, rest in power.

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