Commentary Strange Fruit

When we sat down in the studio to record this week’s show, it was Wednesday evening, and our hearts were heavy with the news of Alton Sterling’s death. Sterling was shot and killed by police in Baton Rouge. He’d been selling CDs outside of a convenience store.

It’s a conversation we’ve had more times than we can accurately remember in our four years of producing Strange Fruit episodes. The details change, but our analysis stays the same.

A police officer who hasn’t been trained to recognize his own internal biases is more likely to see a black man as a threat. Media outlets look to the victim’s past, and behavior during the stop, for evidence of guilt.

Police who shoot people are rarely convicted of crimes. These are all factors in this cycle of police violence we’re seeing in the United States — and now that most people have cell phones with video cameras, we actually see the incidents, all over the internet and TV.

The morning after we recorded our episode, the whole world was watching a Facebook live video taken by Diamond Reynolds showing the last minutes of her boyfriend’s life. Philandro Castile was shot by police during a traffic stop. Reynolds’s 4-year-old daughter, who was in the back seat during the shooting, could be heard on the live stream telling her mom, “It’s OK, I’m right here with you.”

And then, the next night, a sniper shot at police during a peaceful protest in Dallas, killing five officers.

The violence perpetrated by and involving the police is so constant, we can’t keep up with it.

So this week, we’re bringing you the show as we originally recorded it, focused on Alton Sterling. We’ll be at Louisville’s vigil on Sunday, and we’ll keep you posted on further developments. And we sincerely hope we never see another week like this.

Laura is the producer of Strange Fruit, a weekly talk show focusing on race and gender, and oversees WFPL's Curious Louisville project.