Opinion Columns & Blogs

Injustice and dignity

Philando Castile is a name many of us might have heard, then dismissed. We should all remember him. Mr. Castile was an innocent man gunned down for no cause by an overly tense police officer giving Mr. Castile conflicting orders. Mr. Castile did his best to comply with conflicting orders and was killed for doing so. That's not right.

The verdict came around the time a friend sent me an email. He has an older, small pickup truck with an Our Lady of Guadalupe bumper sticker in Spanish on the back window of the truck. He is as white, if not whiter, than I am, but with a Mexican sounding last name. Ever since he has had that truck he randomly gets pulled over.

More often than not, the police officer is visibly shocked when he approaches the truck to see a red headed Irish looking white guy in the driver's seat. The truck is a magnet for the police.

I stood in Washington, D.C. once and watched a guy try repeatedly to hail a taxi. He was black and every cab passed him by. The moment I flagged one down, the cab pulled over. I offered the cab to the other man who refused. The cab driver protested that I had even done that. In Columbia, South Carolina, when I was at CNN, Roland Martin and I were on our way to a TV hit.

We were standing in front of the hotel in our suits. Tourists were trying to hand Roland their keys and luggage. When I travel with non-white friends of mine, they always make me do the driving.

When I was on City Council in Macon, we always had complaints about double standards from the police. I had long thought it was nonsense, but I saw first hand how minority constituents were always more likely to be pulled over or bothered — even those who lived in affluent neighborhoods, had college degrees, etc. It is even worse in poorer areas of town.

What does it do to the dignity and soul of a person who follows the law and still gets treated like a second-class citizen? What about the equal dignity of all people? We as a nation really need to think about this.

You are probably thinking that if there were not so many young black men committing crime or Mexican men joining gangs or coming over as illegal aliens that the police would stop doing this. They brought it on themselves because of the behavior of so many others in their community and until they clean up their community they cannot expect otherwise.

I bet you are thinking that. I thought it too for a long time.

But I am a conservative and I oppose judging any person based on a group. Each man is entitled to his own dignity, not the dignity he gets by virtue of being a part of some group. To think otherwise is not conservative.

To constantly badger an innocent man because of the behavior of those who might share his race or ethnicity is a rejection of our founding creed and the ideals of conservatism.

Every man has dignity because every man is made in the image of our living God. The sooner we recognize that and acknowledge there really is a problem here, the sooner we can arrive at a dignified solution.

Surely there is a way to balance respect for individuals with keeping our police safe and understanding they have a job to do. It will be too late for Mr. Castile. But we need that balance.

Erick Erickson is a Fox News contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.