Featured, Race & Politics

On The Vital And Audacious Rage Of Valerie Castile, The Newest Member Of The “Fucked Up Mother’s Club”

Last Friday, an unsurprising but still disturbing announcement reverberated across the internet. A jury in Minnesota acquitted former police officer Jeronimo Yanez of all charges associated with the shooting death of Philando Castile. The announcement of the acquittal was kind of like being reminded of a slightly older, neglected wound that had started to bleed again. We’ve been inundated with the day-to-day scandals of the Trump presidency, debates about healthcare, media push notifications detailing the most recent global atrocity, and the normal Monday through Sunday mundanity of adult living. Having long ago abandoned the act of loudly proclaiming and posting the name of every emerging hashtag commemorating yet another murder of a Black person by the hands of a police officer. Gradually surrendering to the overwhelming feelings of powerlessness, as those hashtagged names became more of a tidal wave, burying our once defiant heads under a crushing force of consummate death and violence.

However, while some of us watched a stream of the post verdict press coverage behind weary, numbed and tired eyes. Philando Castile’s mother stood at the podium delivering a fiery indictment of the U.S justice system. Visibly hurt, passionate, and seemingly unconscionably composed, Valerie Castile stood among somber friends and family, intent on ringing the alarm of anyone who’d been lulled into indifference or a false sense of security. “The system constantly fails Black people. When they get done with us, they’re coming for you, for you and all your interracial children” she says while pointing to members of the audience. The latter part of that statement possibly a jab at Minnesota being a state with a high rate of interracial marriage, which could delude it’s citizens into thinking it was near achieving post-racial peace.

Hours later, another video emerged; of Ms. Castile’s Facebook Live feed. Donning dark sunglasses, in the passenger seat of a car, while rap music blasted on the radio in the background, Valerie Castile continued to express her feelings on her son’s murder. “I’m tired of trying to be strong and not say the wrong things, because I know how they get down” she asserts. Defiant and seemingly exhausted by the demands of ‘dignified’ suffering often expected of mourning Black mothers, Ms. Castile proceeds to cast off media friendly filters while sharing sentiments regarding the police and her role in encouraging peace among a traumatized populace. “Fuck the police, say whatever the fuck you wanna say, Now THIS is the real Valerie Castile” she booms, later on adding “This could be you, in this fucked up mother’s club.” Throughout the two minute clip peppered with expletives and anti-police rhetoric she discusses how her son was law abiding and how it didn’t protect him, how none of us are protected. She ultimately ends her stream by wishing death on the man who took the life of her son. She’s defiant, militant almost, but more importantly displayed no interest in being a beacon of peace, functioning to assuage any feelings of discomfort and weariness belonging to nervous local statesmen, bracing for public backlash.

America is a perverse, audacious bastard, that frequently murders the children of its Black citizens, then turns around and demands these grieving parents do their part in maintaining civil order. Mike Brown’s step-father Louis Head, had to issue a public apology after being blamed for the consequent rioting, following a grand jury decision to not charge Darren Wilson with the murder of his step-son. “My emotions got the best of me” he explained of his angry outburst to “burn the shit down” while decrying another inhumane injustice his son was subjected to. A cardinal sin for Black parent’s grief, and anger is considered a luxury, one not afforded to those who birth Black children that get themselves murdered by cops. All that is left for them, after their children have been executed, is work. Work to draw attention to their children’s murder, work to seek charges, and finally; work to seek legislative reform after their children’s murderers are routinely acquitted. Much so in the tradition of Emmett Till’s mother–Mamie Bradley Till, who one could point to as the catalyst for both the reignition of the civil rights movement, and the ‘fucked up mothers club’ that Valerie Castlle resents being a member of, 62 years after Emmett Till’s death.

In the 2005 documentary the Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till, there are several scenes featuring Mamie Till — a woman whose resolve and assuredness beams from even her on camera presence — explaining her reaction to finally seeing her son’s dead body, and her decision to have an open casket funeral. Of the day she unboxed Emmett’s remains, she recalls the men who stood on each side of her so as to catch her in the event she fainted, to which she replied “Move, I have a job to do, I don’t have time to be faintin.” Later she describes telling the funeral director her decision to have an open casket “I want the whole world to see what I see, they need to see this.” Within the documentary there are interviews with people like Rev. Al Sharpton praising Mammie’s decision as a sign of strength and sacrifice. “The easiest thing to do would to have had a closed casket and say she couldn’t bare the pain, but she found the strength… she put the image of Emmett onto the American conscious and saved lives.’

Mamie Till did offer the mutilated body of her son, and her grief to the American public on her terms and of her own volition.The images of his mangled face were published to Jet Magazine and his open casket funeral was available to the general public which amounted to thousands of spectators. It’s said that the stench of Emmett’s body was so pungent it could be smelled three blocks away. Several patrons fainted upon seeing his disfigurement, and needed to be carried out of the church. Footage and images of black men and women doubled over in pain, and losing consciousness were strewn across the country, and the world. America watched, and America hungrily devoured Mamie’s suffering and grief. America mourned with Mamie. America feigned calls for justice to be served on Emmett’s behalf. And then a few weeks after the funeral, America acquitted the two White men who murdered Emmett Till.

When speaking of Mamie, the most common words you’ll hear mentioned is strength, and sacrifice. They are accurate descriptors, as she was a formidable woman who believed greatly in her choices, and in her later work spreading messages of hope and reconciliation in public speakings across the country. What we don’t hear much about, is concern for her mental well being. Of her trauma, that unfortunately didn’t start with her son’s brutal murder, but with her husband — who was wrongly charged with raping and killing an Italian woman while serving in the army and sentenced to death by hanging. A detail that was later leaked to the press and published during the trial of Emmett’s murderers. Maybe that’s where she learned that the very human response of grief was a frivolity not afforded to mourning black women. Maybe that’s why upon seeing her son’s body who’d been brutalized beyond what one would think humanly possible — her response was to get to work. That’s the paradox of being Black in America and more specifically of being a Black woman in America. Our “strength” is what makes us both superhuman and subhuman. “Super” in that we are thought to have high thresholds for pain, and remarkable resilience; to do something like offer the bodies of our murdered sons and daughters as a sacrifice to spur America’s conscious and save her from herself. Subhuman in that we are even relegated to being assigned such cruel and inhumane labor.

America is a sadistic bastard, that executes Black people and then foists a microscope and microphone onto their grieving families. With or without their consent, images and the murder of their loved ones at the hands of cops or vigilantes becomes endless loops on social media and cable news stations, illustrations, t-shirts, prom dresses, oil paintings, debit cards,and magazine covers. They are called upon, to be either voices of Black dissent or voices of Christ-like benevolence and forgiveness. They will be lambasted for either decision regardless of whether it’s in their best interest for their grieving process. Their pasts and private lives will become fodder to further impugn the reputation of their executed children. They will watch as the world dissects the life and corpses of their slain loved ones, looking for hints of depravity to justify their deaths or markers of respectability to deem them worthy of mourning. Their words, their diction, their attire, their temperament will be studied and critiqued. Every decision on down, from which popular visible Negro talking head will be at their child’s funeral, to what political candidate they endorse will be closely observed and argued. No longer belonging to themselves-they are eaten by this country’s cyclical monster of politics and the pursuit of “progress” well after they have buried their kids.

As of now at least, it appears Valerie Castile is not interested in that job — and wouldn’t mind seeing the world burn. Six decades later, after images of Emmett Till have permeated America’s psyche, its “conscience” still has not been awakened. After countless Black parents have laid offerings of their slain children on its altar, this dormant God has not been summoned. Ms. Castile’s anger and public defiance is both long overdue and significant, and what’s even more significant is that she be allowed to express it. It’s important for us to allow these grieving parents the humanity that it has long been denied to them. To stop looking to them as inanimate symbols and vehicles of “change” since they are repeatedly victimized by a system that’s very structure is built to deny them justice. It’s the least we can do, for Mamie, for Sybrina, Leslie, Samaria, Geneva, Valerie, countless others, and the soon to be involuntarily enrolled members of America’s infamous Fucked Up Mother’s Club.

Danielle Butler

Danielle Butler is a 30-ish yr old LA/Chicago hybrid whose mutant powers include shit talking, procrastinating, and relating any topic to food. Her favorite pastimes include watching Spongebob with her son, yelling at her cat, and lying about working on her book of short stories.

  • miss t-lee

    Listening to her the other night broke my heart. However, I am proud that she said what she needed to say. It is indeed f*cked up that she’s without her son because of some h*e azz officer.
    It was real. It was visceral. It needed to be seen, heard, and felt.

    • TheUnsungStoryteller

      I’m so glad she let it out. Her feelings are absolutely valid. White folks everywhere need to see that.

  • I am so glad that her anger was visible, palpable and THERE. So many times we see parents whose children have been murdered by the system play it PC, say they forgive the bastids, and will try to encourage peace.

    FUCK THAT.

    Let the world see your irrevocable pain and let people know that they and their children aren’t safe either, even when they do the right thing.

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  • Diego Duarte

    “America is a perverse, audacious b@stard, that frequently murders the children of its Black citizens, then turns around and demands these grieving parents do their part in maintaining civil order. Mike Brown’s step-father Louis Head, had to issue a public apology after being blamed for the consequent rioting, following a grand jury decision to not charge Darren Wilson with the murder of his step-son.”

    I never got around to hearing of that particular incident. You mean to tell me Brown’s body was still fresh and CNN was bullying the step-father into taking responsibility for the protests? I would burn down even more sh*t, cuzz him out on live TV.

    This piece is too accurate. Who in their right mind would asking this of a grieving mother? Any society that expects that, as a default, is beyond fucked up. It needs to be torn the fuck down and rearranged until justice is something more than empty words.

    • Brown Rose

      A schizophrenic society. A society that has never valued Black people as anything other than as props. We are nothing to them except fuel.

    • Ess da 5’6″

      No, the apology that Mike Brown’s father gave came after the non-indictment of Darren Wilson. When that news broke, folks were upset and he could be heard imploring people to burn the place down. Which, I mean…the injustice system makes people want to seek justice in different ways.

      • Diego Duarte

        Even if it came at a later date, he shouldn’t have had to apologize. Justice is justice. Not indicting Darren Wilson was an injustice that needs to be rectified. Tone policing victims is nothing but victim blaming at its finest and the anchormen at CNN should burn in heIl for suggesting it.

  • I_AmU

    Thank you Ms. Butler. You nailed it with this piece.

    • Kat

      She did.

  • kingpinenut

    I don’t have it in me today….

    I am just plain old tired of the states of this country

    • Darkchloe144

      Same, can’t even engage with anyone about this atrocity anymore. It’s too much.

    • Kat

      Years. Years. I can barely read news articles anymore. Stopped watching the news. There is only so much the human psyche can take.

      • kingpinenut

        I heard somebody refer to it a secondary trauma.

        • Kat

          Is it really secondary at this point. I’m an older black woman who slow blinks when I see a cop car, heart racing. Riding clean..just like Philando. A woman who slows down when I see they have pulled over someone of color. Just to make sure. None of that is secondary. It’s reflexive. It’s how they kept the slaves in line. Kill one in front of the others..rape one, maim one. Ain’t ish secondary about how we living.

          What is secondary is the phrasing, the denial and assistance we don’t have. We should all be getting a crazy check. We dying from the inside out.

          • Val

            Coincidentally, I went to a Juneteenth celebration yesterday. While leaving we passed by some cops all standing together, we walked around them allowing more distance between us and then than needed to get by. They are like stray dogs, you never know if they are going to be harmless or vicious.

            • Kat

              Sis…sis. All that. All that. Damn shame that I totally understand that.

          • MsSula

            Seriously, it is so insidious that you don’t even realize how reflexive it has become. It’s when I moved back I realized that it was not just homesickness that made me move back, but I was slowly going stir crazy and having a quiet depression that would have gone unnoticed. I was a functioning alcoholic without even noticing.

            The term resilient is so appropriate for black people in America, especially those who have been living there for generations. It’s incredible what type of strength it takes.

  • KeciB

    I’m glad she expressed her true feelings. Why should the victim be concerned with offending the perpetrator and his ilk or the feelings of white people who feel nothing for the senseless loss of her son?

    • Kat

      Because we’ve done it for generations. When massa raped our wives, we said nothing. When massa beat our husbands/wives, sold our children, maimed..brutalized..we said nothing but thank you. Thank you for overwhelming whiteness.

      • KeciB

        Very true. We’ve been conditioned to accept whatever horror is directed towards us and suffer in silence. That needs to change and Valerie opening up is the first step but we have a long way to go.

  • Kat

    Salt the earth..after you burn it down.

  • I believe many Americans try to hold up the Civil Rights Movement as the way they want black folk to respond to state violence. Take our beatings and hosings and killings and lynchings by lifting our voices and singing.

    They never study the riots and violence that occurs after our leaders being shot dead when they did advocate for peace. We have white police killing black people- who they are and all they will ever be to their parents, friends, siblings, lovers, and children- out of the same emotions of anger and fear that mourning black people feel when they lower their bullet riddled loved ones, now corpses, into the ground.

    The problem here is that one set of people have their emotional reactions to furtive movements protected by our politics. Another group- almost always black- gets blasted to ash for their emotions. And the people who move on are then told to look back to Martin on how you should behave when a bullet tore through your son’s arota and had him bleed out.

    God bless Ms. Castille and her anger. She was denied justice. But she’s going to go out and speak her truth.

    • BlackMamba, Romperstiltskin

      They also love ignoring how MLK Jr. and other activists were called communists, shot at, bombed and killed.

      • Exactly. MLK advocated for peace and pursue it civilly. And for his work he had his brains blown out at the Lorraine Hotel.

        That’s why we shouldn’t hold back anger. I forgot who said it and I’m sure I’m either butchering or adding more to the quote- always communicate your anger; if you don’t, they’ll kill you and either say you liked it, deserved it, or wanted it.

        • 909girl601world

          Zora Neale Hurston

          • Thanks for the assist!

          • Cheech

            *adds to reading list*

          • Brown Rose

            Absolutely brilliant woman.

            • TheUnsungStoryteller

              Her book (Their Eyes Were Watching God) changed my entire life all three times I read it.

              1. In middle school ( I hated it)
              2. In high school
              3. In college

        • TheUnsungStoryteller

          Absolutely.

      • Rastaman

        We all understand that non-violence was a protest strategy of the Civil Rights movement and not necessarily how all parts of the movement operated. Non-violent protest was a strategy utilized in public spaces to highlight the violent nature of Jim Crow but in private there were armed brothers and sisters protecting those who were involved with the movement.

        • The thing was they were shrewd about how they used violence too. How they operated impressed me because they understood both the need for protection and the need to present a non-violent image.

          • Kylroy

            The other aspect that was present in the 1960s and absent now is the USSR. Not that there was any meaningful interaction between them and the members of the Civil Rights movement, but the fact that there was a rival world power ready to discredit the US meant that everyone knew somebody would listen to them if Americans would not.

            • Very true. The USSR pounced on every misstep the Feds gave during the Civil Rights Movement for propaganda purposes. They also made an effort to try and infiltrate the CRM for their own purposes, but that didn’t work out.

              • Kylroy

                Not that the USSR was a force for good, but *man* it’s become apparent that it’s presence forced the US to be better.

                • Very well said. The idea of a different way of living forced the USA to actually understand what it was signing up for. That understanding doesn’t really exist now.

              • orchid921

                I didn’t know anything about this little snippet of history until I watched the first season of “The Americans.” I’m stunned that the USSR didn’t do a better job recruiting, considering the circumstances.

                • The church roots of the CRM have a lot to do with that. Also, internecine disputes within Communism led those so oriented towards Maoism, not the Soviets.

        • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

          This. We’ve lost balance. We are clearly in need of organized self-defense.

    • Brown Rose

      Which is why Emmett Till’s mother decision to have an open casket is still such a powerful act of defiance. She is not only telling white society what they did to her son, she is also saying that she can’t even grieve properly because her son will never see justice for the barbarity of the act.

  • Brown Rose

    Black people aren’t supposed to feel any kind of rage, any normal feeling of loss, that their children or loved ones were maimed and/or murdered. We are supposed to be like the Roof’s victims family. We are supposed to sing we shall overcome and #alllivesmatter. They expect us to be stalwart, forgiving, and to emote nothing because apparently Black rage is scary.

    White people can of course express all manner of rage, discontent, verbal and psychological assault and it is seen as valid, worthy of deference and consideration.

    I wonder why Whites and non-Blacks are so afraid of Black people expressing any kind of human emotion that isn’t shucking and jiving. .

    • BlackMamba, Romperstiltskin

      Studies show white Americans support the right to protest less once blacks start using it.

      • Brown Rose

        Why am I not surprised? Blacklivesmatter became about thugs and less about protest. WE continue to subsume and appease and continue to be dehumanized. This game is rigged. We will never win.

      • HouseSublime

        Sounds about right. Open carrying firearms was all the rage in California until the Black Panthers showed up to a government building back in last 1960s. The rights weren’t crafted with the intent for black folks to use them.

        • AProst

          Was gonna say enthusiasm for 2A rights seems to never get discussed in terms of blacks exercising them.

        • I_AmU

          Thank the gop’s patron saint Ronald Reagan. He was governor of Cali then. He signed the no open carry law shortly after they exercised that right in the Statehouse armed to the teeth.

          • It was the Mulford Act. That’s what Reagan signed in to law.

            • I_AmU

              Thanks for the info :)

      • Janelle Doe

        Fam, that’s allyship for you (or not)

    • kingpinenut

      White fear comes from knowing that white folks will receive justice for all the injustice they have spread.

      • Brown Rose

        No they won’t. They really won’t.

        • kingpinenut

          Depends on the timescale….

          one cannot run forever….even to mars

          • Brown Rose

            They will make it work. Transhumanism will make it work. As I said, this will go on until our sun dies.

            • kingpinenut

              Not familiar with transhumanism….

              Given that we as species are neither omnipotent nor omniscient, there will be a reckoning

              • Brown Rose

                You are optimistic. The path of history doesn’t show reckoning or fairness.

                • kingpinenut

                  Maybe it’s optimism, I don’t think so. Systems have entropy that eventually gets corrected.

                  History has been distorted so much we don’t even really know what happened.

                  I sure as heyall don’t trust certain perspectives that’s for certain.

                  Different times scales lend different meanings to justice, that’s all.

                  • Kylroy

                    Well yes. The arc of the universe is long, and it bends toward oblivion.

                    • kingpinenut

                      or maybe different expressions of energy……

                      just because we can’t see something in no way means it is absent.

                  • Brown Rose

                    The universe doesn’t work like that. There is no such thing as a self correction. We live in an arbitrary universe and we are at the mercy of capricious and indefinable forces. Justice is a human concept that is open to interpretation and is subjective.

                    • kingpinenut

                      Too bad we’re not at a nice coffee house with a plate of bacon . . . .

                      I can’t say I know how the universe really works at all. I’m just making observations of what I see around me.

                      It seems far from capricious and arbitrary from my view….just my .02

                    • Brown Rose

                      I am not discounting wonder. I just don’t think humans matter in the grand scheme.

                    • kingpinenut

                      It does make me ask….why would all of this around & within us be created? What purpose does it serve?

                    • Brown Rose

                      It serves no purpose other than mere existence. it is an expression of creation.

                    • kingpinenut

                      Somehow i think there’s more than mere exsistence.

                      Logically, a creation has a creator.

                      The mere act of creation may bring joy itself.

                    • Kas

                      Logically as we define it, creation has a Creator and everything has a beginning. These are definitions/ideas humans have come up with, but not necessarily what is.

                    • kingpinenut

                      @Kas no disagreemnet here.

                    • Kas

                      Hope, another human traits, makes me think you are correct though.

                    • kingpinenut

                      I just figure there’s a reason for everything, my assignment iis to learn.

                    • Kylroy

                      …turtles all the way down?

                    • Kas

                      Nah, I believe there is more to it. What that “it” is, I have no idea.

                    • Brown Rose

                      You are projecting your humanity (feelings, thoughts) on a “creator”, when it is merely a mechanism of the universe itself.

                    • kingpinenut

                      If you say so….

                • Kylroy

                  The comparison to African-Americans is far from perfect, but Jews were a sometimes tolerated, sometimes persecuted minority in Europe for centuries. And the final result of all that injustice was…millions of them were rounded up and murdered, and most of the rest fled.

                  • Brown Rose

                    They were. The difference is that they were able to create community and several times throughout European History held power and influence that is still felt today. Black Americans never had that ability.

                    • Kylroy

                      Absolutely. Mostly using this as an example that injustice is not in any way guaranteed to be compensated for.

                    • Brown Rose

                      *nods*. yes.

    • Kas

      Rhetorical question I know but I will answered anyway.

      If we ever justly retaliated in the same manner as the injustice done to us in this country, the Vietnam War would seem docile in comparison.

      • Brown Rose

        *nods head* I’ve said that a million times. Look at what white men did over tea and taxes? Look at what they caused because they didn’t like the president telling them they couldn’t own slaves. Look at Europe’s and Asia’s long history of intercene warfare.

        If we responded in a collective and organized way like them—America would be a veritable wasteland.

      • Absolutely, wholeheartedly.

      • Mary Burrell

        So very true and I think many whites are afraid of that happening.

      • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

        All of this fear is in preparation for the retaliation that they feel is inevitable in coming.

    • Personally, I think it’s their way of maintaining social order. If we’re fully human, they’d have to find a way to actually integrate a different culture into their lives, and they perceive that as cultural annihilation. Why do you think the White supremacists have talked so much about White Genocide? That loss of cultural is the “genocide” they so fear.

      • Brown Rose

        Well yes…dehumanization works that way beautifully. If they believe you are inferior then it is quite easy to maintain their status. But they have been doing this since at least the 15th century and became more pronounced after the enlightenment. Modern Europeans created Racism as we experience it now.

      • Gibbous

        That loss of White Supremacy is the “genocide” they so fear.

        • The problem is that White Supremacy has fed and clothed a whole lot of people. People tend not to want to take food out of their own mouth.

          • Gibbous

            This, a thousand times!

    • Keiko Coy-Knee

      People are afraid because it is so fucking powerful… and it’s something that white people cannot minimize and control.

  • BlackMamba, Romperstiltskin

    Anger is real. Anger is human. This idea that anger makes someone bless than not only ignores injustice but promotes it. There is nothing more American than this and black folks are the most American of people because we fight everyday for the little freedoms we have.

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