Last night, the world reacted to the verdict that Philando Castile’s death will go without punishment. Officer Jeronimo Yanez has been acquitted of all charges after fatally shooting Castile a year ago, and many people are taking to Twitter to express grief and outrage at a society that rarely punishes people of authority for taking black lives.
Orange is the New Black actress Danielle Brooks had an especially poignant response to the news. Her first response, like many other celebrities who spoke out about the verdict, was incredulity: “The family has EVERY right to be visibly upset and angry!!” she tweeted, “#standwiththem #sayhisname #PhilandoCastile when will this end? #justice.”
Then, Brooks drew a comparison that she knew would resonate with many of her fans, using Orange is the New Black to make her point hit home.
“Every time you think of Poussey, think of a real Human Being,” she wrote, referring to Brooks’ character’s best friend on the show who is murdered by a prison guard. “Shed a real tear. Get angry about a real death. #PhilandoCastile.”
Invoking the emotions audiences felt watching beloved, peaceful Poussey murdered is a powerful point to make. By drawing attention to the reactions people had to her death on the show, Brooks is encouraging followers to remember that feeling of sorrow and indignation and to recognize that this is reality, not television. Brooks is making a connection between the increasingly violent behavior of the prison guards on the show that took a courageous character’s life and the real-life systems in place in America that allow black lives to be taken.
Poussey was murdered in season four in a large part due to a system that rewards acting on impulse and not asking questions. Drawing parallels between her fictional death and Castile’s all-too-real one is not difficult to do.
Brooks’ tweets are yet another reminder that what is happening in the world is far from fiction, and deserves our attention and response.