This Quote From Alton Sterling's Son Will Break Your Heart
The nation has watched in horror as coverage of the death of Alton Sterling, yet another Black man killed by police in what many consider racist police brutality, hit every major news outlet in the country. While writers and social media users pen outraged responses, and protesters across the country take to the streets, this quote from Sterling's son will break your heart the most.
During their press conference in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (where Sterling was killed), family members and loved ones gathered to speak out about the injustice done to Sterling. While the mother of his oldest son spoke about how difficult it will be for their son to grow up without his father, their 15-year-old son, who was standing next to her, began to break down and cry, turning his back on the cameras and embracing his family behind him. Although his mother was speaking, his words were clearly audible: "I want my daddy!"
In the MSNBC footage, the camera pans to Sterling's son, who was embraced by multiple people. His cries became a kind of terrible soundtrack to his mother's speech. This heartbreaking moment, shared countless times on social media, communicated the unimaginable grief and outrage the Sterling family must feel better than any well-written speech or editorial possibly could.
This summer's spate of tragedy has undoubtedly produced dozens, if not hundreds of thought-provoking, poignant and emotional written responses. While these are important to write and share, there's something more powerful about seeing and hearing recorded words of grief and horror. From the Snapchat video of the moment when shots broke out at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando to CNN's Ashleigh Banfield reading the Stanford rape victim's statement on-air, to the video of a man in Baghdad taken moments after the ISIS attacks there on Saturday, being able to witness, even electronically, the pain and suffering of others instantly causes it to connect with viewers.
As the hours and days pass, and more and more people share their two cents about this recent act of police brutality, the plaintive cries of Sterling's son, on a stage with his family as they go through the unthinkable task of speaking about their loved one's death to a nationwide audience, ring loudly in the nation's ears. This moment is reminiscent of another quote, not directly related to this tragedy but poignant nonetheless:
There are moments that the words don't reach. There is suffering too terrible to name. You hold your child as tight as you can, and try to push away the unimaginable.
May these words from the song "It's Quiet Uptown" from Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton remind us that the Sterlings, and thousands of other Black families throughout the country, are going through the unimaginable.