Opinion: No Charges for Stephon Clark’s Death Leave a ‘Broken, Grieving Community’
Editor’s note: This is an updated version of an essay that YR originally published in April 2018 following the death of Stephon Clark.
When 22-year-old Stephon “Zoe” Clark was shot and killed by Sacramento police officers in his grandmother’s backyard last year, he left behind two kids, a fiancé and a broken, grieving community — my community.
The district attorney’s decision not to charge the two officers for his death makes me sad and angry, but it’s what I expected to happen since the beginning. Not much has changed since his murder, and the little change we’ve seen is not significant enough to make an actual impact.
I grew up in Sacramento, and I live in fear knowing that the next unarmed black male or female in the headlines could be my dad, uncle, cousin or even myself.
Growing up in the black community here, we are trained to always be aware of our surroundings more than other kids, because one blink too long could be fatal. We proclaim our love for one another before leaving the house or ending a phone call because that could be the last time we hear or see each other alive.
As black youth, we are angry — angry because our government officials do not take us seriously when we express our concerns after our sisters and brothers are slaughtered in the streets by the police. We are constantly raising the issue of gun control in America, but it seems like it only matters when white lives are in danger.
Unaware of their privilege, people tell us it’s our fault the police kill us, or that we have no reason to fear the police. Many active community leaders such as my uncle, Les Simmons, or Berry Accius reassure us what we feel is normal and justified, and the police should be learning how to interact with us, not the other way around.
Stephon Clark’s death opened old wounds here. The community and youth are still coming together to help one another heal. But we’re still hurting because there has been no closure or resolution. The Sacramento police department allows these incidents to happen, and no one is ever held accountable.
It’s time people outside the black community value that pain too.
If people valued our lives as much as white kids’ lives, gun control, #NeverAgain and #Enough would apply to the cops too. We are being murdered — by the people who are trained to “serve and protect” us. We are seen as numbers rather than individuals. We plan protests, attend marches, but nothing we do is ever enough.
We have proven that we want change but until the rest of America is ready for change, we will be forced to take the abuse.
Youth from all over Sacramento have come together to heal and change the culture of this community. Although we are all still grieving from this tragedy, we have unified as one to help lift each other up. Whether it’s speaking at city council meetings, youth town halls or simply raising awareness, we have all been activated to change Sacramento for the better.
Rachael Francois is 18 and a participant with Voice of The Youth in Sacramento.